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Study Shows Looks Definitely Matter in a Courtroom

June 16, 2010 | Posted In Recent News - Criminal Law |

It seems Lady Justice is quite the connoisseur of beauty, underneath that blindfold. A new study confirms what New Jersey criminal defense attorneys have known for long - juries tend to be swayed by good looks.

A study conducted by Cornell University found that defendants with a pleasing appearance were much more likely to be acquitted, than those who were not so attractive. On an average, attractive defendants were 22% more likely to make a favorable impression on a jury, than persons with a less-than-pleasing appearance.

The subliminal discrimination doesn't end there. Juries also seem to hand out attractive defendants lighter sentences, than those for less attractive ones. On an average, ordinary looking defendants were handed sentences that were 22 months longer than their more eye-pleasing counterparts.

That shouldn't be news to anyone, and especially not to New Jersey criminal defense lawyers. A favorable first impression on the basis of looks can carry you far in the real-world, and there's no reason why the courtroom should be different. However, any kind of bias towards more attractive defendants seems to be limited only to minor offenses. When it comes to major crimes, or in cases where there is substantial evidence against the defendant, looks may not make much of a difference. In other words, it wouldn't matter if a defendant on trial for murder was an Angelina Jolie-look-alike. If there was substantial evidence against her, she would be just as likely to be convicted on the basis of evidence, as someone with a less pleasing appearance.

Psychologists will tell you - human beings tend to judge other human beings on their appearance by default. That’s especially true at the beginning of a trial, when jurors may not know much about you, and may not have much to go on. However, as a jury finds out more about the person, the importance of looks in the perception of the person, becomes lesser.

So, what's the message that New Jersey criminal defense lawyers can take away from this? It's important to give jurors a chance to see your client as a real person, behind that possibly unattractive exterior. The more information jurors have about a defendant, the less emphasis they will place on the defendant’s looks.

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