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People tend to have preconceived notions regarding guilt or innocence based on experience and general observation regardless of the whether the evidence points towards guilt or innocence. This can adversely impact the way in which trials can be considered as empirical or non-biased given the preconceptions that are developed.

As such, this paper assumes that the current decision-making system involving juries is affected by bias and preconceptions which makes their decisions potentially erroneous.
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Impact of Appearance on Juridic Judgement
As seen in the Sigall and Ostrove article on the impact of offender attractiveness, there is a correlation between the appearance of an offender and the resulting sentencing that they receive. The research clearly showed what can be considered as a bias against physically unattractive criminals compared to their good-looking counterparts and vice versa depending on the type of case that they were being sentenced for (ex: being a burglar or a con-man).

What this article showed is that the law is not necessarily applied equally in many cases wherein, consciously or unconsciously, an individual’s appearance factored into the decision of the court regarding the severity of the sentencing. The problem with this is that the law should apply equally to all, regardless of attractive or unattractive a person is. While there are cases where appearance does not matter (ex: cases involving murder, arson, and terrorism), the fact remains this is clear evidence of bias existing in the court system.

The Presence of Bias
Aside from attraction, there is also the fact that bias can exist based on preconceived notions that a juror may have. For example, in the Diamond article on jury simulations, it was shown that some jurors went into deliberations and attended evidence showing with clear preconceived notions. This is based not only the information provided to them but also through their inherent bias regarding particular aspects of the case (affinity towards a particular race or religion as an example).

Through this bias, there is the potential that a juror could influence others towards their way of thinking. It should be noted though that most juror cases utilize the arguments and evidence presented as the primary means by which they make a decision and not all cases involving pre-deliberation and preconceived notions result in biased decisions. However, regardless of this, the Diamond article does show that jury bias does exist and should be taken into consideration.

Impact of Bias
Aside from physical attractiveness and preconceived notions, bias can also be created based on the sort of evidence presented, regardless of its relevancy to the case. In the Doob and Kirshenbaum article, it was shown that section 12 of the Canadian Evidence Act allows the prosecutor to present the criminal record of the defendant as evidence. As the authors of the article show, the presentation of criminal history brings about bias in the jury since it creates a preconceived idea of what the defendant is supposedly like as a person. As such, in a criminal case involving a robbery where the evidence is not conclusive, the bias created by the criminal record is likely enough to convince the jury to issue a guilty verdict.
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Overall, what this paper has shown is that the current decision-making system involving juries is affected by bias and preconceptions which makes their decisions potentially erroneous. This is influenced by physical appearance, preconceived notions and potentially influencing the jury with evidence that is not necessarily applicable to a case but does influence how they perceive a person.
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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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