Realizing the Potential of Instructions to Disregard

Linda J. Demaine

in Memory and Law

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199920754
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950133 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Series in Neuroscience, Law, and Philosophy

Realizing the Potential of Instructions to Disregard

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The chapter addresses a longstanding issue of import to the courts—what instructions to disregard trial judges should issue when jurors are exposed to unfairly prejudicial inadmissible evidence. While the purpose of these instructions is easily stated—to minimize the influence objectionable evidence exerts on jurors—how best to formulate the instructions is considerably more challenging. Courts exclude this evidence precisely because it tends to unduly bias jurors against parties, contrary to the constitutional guarantee of a fair trial. What might trial judges say to effectively negate this prejudice? The chapter takes two converging approaches to answering this question. It draws upon empirical research in the behavioral sciences to: 1) evaluate previous proposals intended to improve on the traditional instructions to disregard, and 2) suggest factors that trial judges might profitably consider when crafting and delivering instructions to disregard.

Keywords: inadmissible evidence; instructions to disregard; jury decision making; fair trial; intentional forgetting; debiasing

Chapter.  12466 words. 

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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