Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Researchers Say Slow-Motion Video May Bias Jury Trials

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Researchers Say Slow-Motion Video May Bias Jury Trials

Article excerpt

With the proliferation of police officers' body cameras and popularity of citizens live-streaming run-ins with the police, it's increasingly likely that court testimony isn't just one memory of how events unfolded held up against another. More and more, there's video evidence to consider as well.

But researchers now warn that video evidence should be treated with caution in the courtroom, and the court of public opinion.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that viewers who watched a slow-motion video of a crime were more likely to say the crime was calculated rather than impulsive, even if they also saw a regular speed version of events unfolding as well. And premeditated crimes result in harsher sentences, according to study authors Eugene M. Carusoa and Zachary C. Burns, business professors from the University of Chicago and the University of San Francisco, respectively.

Although a slow-motion video might help to make sense of a chaotic crime scene, it could also lead viewers to read intent into actions, "giv[ing] viewers the false impression that the actor had more time to premeditate before acting," researchers wrote. Judging whether a defendant had a long enough time window to consider inflicting harm is key in many legal disputes.

In the study, juries who saw the slow-motion video of a fatal shooting outside a convenience store were nearly four times more likely to return a unanimous first-degree murder verdict than juries who saw the regular-speed version, according to one of the four experiments.

This experiment was based closely off a real-world scenario. In a 2009 Pennsylvania trial, John Lewis pled guilty to the murder of a police officer who arrived on the scene of his armed robbery of a Dunkin' Donuts. Since the issue of guilt was certain, the question left up to the jury was whether he acted out of panic or with a "willful, deliberate and premeditated" intent to kill. …

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