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Crime The Courts Idle Science

Justice Not As Blind As Previously Thought 256

NotSoHeavyD3 writes "I doubt this is much of a surprise but apparently Cornell University did a study that seems to show you're more likely to get convicted if you're ugly. From the article: 'According to a Cornell University study, unattractive defendants are 22 percent more likely to be convicted than good-looking ones. And the unattractive also get slapped with harsher sentences — an average of 22 months longer in prison.'"
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Justice Not As Blind As Previously Thought

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  • But wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kirin Fenrir ( 1001780 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:12PM (#32256506)
    If this is true, how'd Micheal Jackson keep getting off?!
  • Self esteem? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Vrallis ( 33290 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#32256588) Homepage

    Isn't it just as likely that "ugly people" are more likely to have self esteem issues, which would lead to a higher proclivity towards committing crimes (thus more convictions) and the odds of those crimes being more heinous (leading to longer sentences)?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:23PM (#32256650)

    So what it really says is, 'Cornell students are more likely to punish you if you are ugly'.

  • Re:But wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by weszz ( 710261 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:25PM (#32256688)

    because the FBI was also looking at him for terrorism, and they couldn't find anything on him either... which tells me he didn't do it, and was just not mentally developed in that area of his life that he saw nothing wrong in sleeping in the same bed as someone's kid.

    from his upbringing I'm surprised any of them turned out to be well adjusted people.

  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:52PM (#32257108)

    the methodology is so flawed I don't know where to start
    - youngsters are likely much more sensitive to looks than more mature people. I know I changed that way.
    - cutting the inputs down to case summary+photo emphasizes looks ... What a surprise ! May be not the same happens, or not to the same degree, when the accused actually moves, talks... and the photo is NOT the only "feeling" of him/her the jurors get ?
    - maybe over the course of a trial, feelings take a back seat to facts ? I get a feeling the study was done with 1h per trial, no time to take a step back.

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @03:55PM (#32257160) Homepage Journal

    The statues of justice are always blindfolded, not blind...

    You know how blind people often wear sunglasses to hide their useless eyes? Guess hat they wore back before sunglasses were invented. Go on, guess...

  • by codegen ( 103601 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:00PM (#32257230) Journal
    The study let the fake jury read the case history and listen to taped closing arguments. However in a real trial, the lawyers are up in front and interacting. I wonder how much the lawyers physical attractiveness works into the equation. After all the defendant just sits at the table (unless he/whe takes the stand).
  • by citab ( 1677284 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @04:18PM (#32257482)

    Did they start the study of a "Hot or Not" prisoner website?

    Like the say in the auto sales game... "Theres an ass for every seat"

    I think that applies here too. Some people are turned on by strangely shaped faces, legs, asses... midgets (where are my old videos?) ....

    This is way too subjective to be taken seriously...

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:09PM (#32258088)

    The ugly might very well commit more crimes, but this study eliminates that as a confounding factor.

    What some people here are trying to argue is that if ugly people commit more crimes, then being ugly is itself a piece of evidence, so they the burden of other, factual evidence is less.

    I have conservative friends who think this way. DNA evidence springs some black guy from jail after serving 10 years for a rape he didn't commit, and my friend says, oh well, look at him, he probably did other crimes for which he was never caught.

  • Re:I believe it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @05:34PM (#32258316) Homepage Journal

        Back in the mid 90s, I worked for one of those slick, cool, handsome and nattily dressed business owners who embezzled over four million dollars from several businesses including the one I was employed at.

      It only came to light when his pyramid investment schemes crashed and our paychecks bounced.

        He's one of the fortunate ones - he's only doing about twenty years in a fedpen. I say fortunate because there were many people on his payroll who would gladly have terminated his existence, including me.



  • by Xaositecte ( 897197 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @06:05PM (#32258624) Journal

    The definition of "White Trash" differs from person to person because it's generally a perjorative, but in general:

    - Low on the Socioeconomic ladder, lives in trailor parks or shitty apartments.
    - Embraces a lifestyle that keeps them and their children low on the socioeconomic ladder. Usually uneducated past High School, prefers alcohol or drug abuse to working long hours, fails to take care of their children, etc.
    - Has white skin color.

  • by Xaositecte ( 897197 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @07:07PM (#32259124) Journal

    Pardon me, I'm being unclear here.

    It's not that people should ALWAYS work long hours, it's that sometimes (Especially if you have no education) it's necessary to work long hours in order to achieve a higher standard of living for yourself or your children. People under the "White Trash" label wouldn't make that sacrifice. What could have been a college fund for their kids would instead either never be earned in the first place, or wasted on drugs or alcohol.

  • by pipedwho ( 1174327 ) on Tuesday May 18, 2010 @07:48PM (#32259434)

    No, the scientists have shown an indicative bias in a simplified controlled study. If you want a more concise conclusion, you'll either have to wait for someone to perform further study with a different sampling of people/environments, or you can formulate another hypothesis and provide some test data.

    Making the exact opposite statement is equally untested in a scientific sense and also requires proof. Many scientific theories can never be proven with 100% certainty, however, by definition, they must be falsifiable in some way, and in this case provide a numeric analyses that can be refined with improved test methods and data.

    What the students have done is formulate a hypothetical argument and provided data to support that position. If further confounding variables are established, then the confidence in the hypothesis is weakened, but doesn't automatically default to an opposite viewpoint. In this case, it merely defaults to a lower confidence of accuracy. The conclusion is what it is, and does support the hypothesis. If contrary evidence is provided, then the hypothesis may be weakened to the point where it does support the opposing argument.

    A follow-up study to this one could include a random sampling of people from the greater population. Beyond that, they could use actors. Beyond that, they could provide analyses of numerous real case studies and normalise against various background variables. etc.

    At some point, the confidence level of the original hypothesis will increase to a point that extrapolating into the real justice system could produce highly accurate results.

    The article author implies that the result extrapolates to the real justice system. However, the actual scientific study is really about human reasoning being influenced by emotional bias. So, I suspect the author of the article has taken liberties to generate their own more sensationalist conclusion.

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