University of Southern Queensland

Month: March 2024

Deliberation distortion: The impact of misinformation on jury decision-making

By Dr Gianni Ribeiro


Jury deliberation is considered a cornerstone of fair trial proceedings. However, a newly published study in Frontiers in Psychology in January 2024, which I co-authored, delves into a crucial issue: the potential for jurors to misremember key evidence from the trial and introduce misinformation during deliberations.


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The problem of memory distortion is well-documented in the context of eyewitness testimony, where misinformation can compromise the reliability of witness accounts (see Loftus, 2005, for a review). Discussion among eyewitnesses is a known source of memory distortion and can result in memory conformity, where each eyewitnesses’ account of the event starts to resemble other eyewitnesses’ accounts. As a result, discussion between eyewitnesses is discouraged in efforts to preserve memory integrity. However, in jury deliberations, it is assumed that discussions will enhance jurors’ memory of the key details relating to the case, leading to more accurate verdicts (Pritchard and Keenan, 1999, 2002; Hirst and Stone, 2017; Jay et al, 2019).

Before our research, only one study had explored whether misinformation introduced in jury deliberations affected juror memory and decision-making (Thorley et al, 2020). They found that the more misinformation mock jurors accepted (ie, misremembered it as evidence from the trial), the more likely they were to reach a guilty verdict.


Our research builds on Thorley and colleagues’ (2020) work by also exploring the effect of pro-defence misinformation and whether judicial instructions warning jurors about misinformation may mitigate its influence in a sexual assault trial.

In our first study, we found that participants were more likely to misremember pro-prosecution misinformation as having been presented as evidence during the trial compared to pro-defence misinformation. However, misinformation did not impact ultimate decision-making in the case, which may be attributed to most participants (87.6%) leaning towards a guilty verdict prior to deliberation.

Therefore, in our second study, we used a more ambiguous case that resulted in a more even split of verdicts pre-deliberation (66.7% guilty). Here, we found that participants who received pro-defence misinformation were more likely to misattribute the misinformation as coming from the trial than participants who received pro-prosecution misinformation. Further, pro-defence misinformation led to a decrease in ratings of defendant guilt and complainant credibility, and an increase in the strength of the defendant’s case. However, the judicial instruction about misinformation exposure had no effect.


Together, the findings from our two studies suggest that misinformation introduced during jury deliberations may indeed distort memory of trial evidence and impact decision-making. Although there is popular support for judicial instructions as a legal safeguard, there is mixed evidence for their effectiveness and our research found that there was no effect of warning jurors about potential misinformation prior to deliberation. These findings call for a deeper exploration of strategies to maintain the integrity of juror deliberations and ensure the fairness of trial verdicts.

The article is open access, so you can read and download it for free here.


Gianni Ribeiro is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Law and Justice at the University of Southern Queensland. She is based at the Ipswich campus.

Prior to joining the School of Law and Justice in 2023, Gianni obtained her PhD in applied cognitive and social psychology from The University of Queensland in 2020 with no corrections. She was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland working in collaboration with Queensland Police Service.

Ante-factum statutory general mandatory vaccination: A solution to legal hypocrisy in pandemics

By A/Pr Ciprian Radavoi

With the next pandemic likely not far ahead, the debate over the suitability of a broad, general vaccination mandate (‘GVM’) goes on. Proponents insist on utilitarian arguments related to the common good, while opponents rely on autonomy and individual freedom of choice.

In an article forthcoming in World Medical and Health Policy, I propose a novel argument in favour of GVM: vaccination should be mandatory because, in the fear-dominated climate of a pandemic, it becomes mandatory anyway — just not in a de jure, parliament-sanctioned form. As former Australian Prime Minister Morrison has put it, the government will make vaccination “as mandatory as you can make it”. That is, left to its own devices, executive power, from governments to the local administration and even corporations, will tend to impose on the non-vaccinated restrictions of such harshness that vaccination becomes de facto mandatory.

Public health policy is supposed to follow the so-called ‘ladder of intervention’, moving gradually from the least to the most restrictive measures in order to attain a certain objective. In pandemics, the objective is reaching herd immunity by having a high enough proportion of vaccinated. At the top of the ladder there is forcible vaccination, obviously prohibited in democratic countries. Next down the ladder are statutory mandates backed with fines, like the one imposed in Austria and a few other countries. Next down, there is a grey area where there is no official general mandate to vaccinate but, to persuade the population to do the right thing, all sort of prohibitions are imposed on the unvaccinated.

As making life difficult to the unvaccinated was at the heart of pro-vaccination policies in the COVID-19 pandemic, they were banned from pubs, churches, shops, etc. An element of reasonable choice remained for most of these: the pubgoer had the option to drink at home, the churchgoer could dispense with the priest’s service for a while and speak to the Divinity directly, the shopper could shop online or ask a friend to shop for them, and so on.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

But when the place you are banned from is the workplace, we are no longer talking about a real choice. ‘No jab, no job’ is not the same as ‘no jab, no pub’. Work is much more than the right to do a job and get a salary in return. As individuals we obtain an income allowing for a decent life (food, clothing, housing, medicines), but also dignity, self-esteem, and social recognition. A person who is denied the right to work is exposed to the risk of poverty, mental harm, and even suicide.

Given the fundamental importance of the right to work, and the longer effect of restrictions on this than on other rights in pandemics, “vaccination or joblessness” is not a reasonable choice the worker is presented with. Without choice, there is coercion. With coercion, there is a mandate. A de facto mandate, more precisely – one imposed by the executive (public or private) power in the absence of statutes stipulating general mandatory vaccination. And this creates three serious problems from a democracy and rule of law perspective:

  • First, banning the unvaccinated from the workplace was done in the COVID-19 pandemic — despite the fundamental importance of the right to work to the human being — without any genuine examination of the elements of balancing (necessity, proportionality) required whenever a right is limited by the authorities.
  • Second, numerous employers sacked the unvaccinated even in jurisdictions where this was not supported or required by public regulation. Corporate overreach, in the form of banning the unvaccinated from the workplace despite the lack of laws requiring this radical measure, is especially concerning given the increased concentration of unchecked power in private hands, in the contemporary globalised world.
  • And third, in a more general perspective, claiming that something mandatory is not mandatory is a case of legal hypocrisy. Legal hypocrisy obscures the harm inflicted on persons and communities, thus silencing the victims. It also erodes trust in the rule of law and in democratic institutions: how can the citizen believe in a system that publicly honours the fundamental liberal value of personal autonomy, while at the same time dismisses it in practice?

In the charged climate of a pandemic, overly zealous action by public and private executive power, including dismissal of the unvaccinated, seems inevitable, with the noxious effects enumerated above. It is better to fence this otherwise laudable zeal by simply making general vaccination de jure mandatory, with all the benefits deriving from this official status in terms of setting the proper balance between the rights and interests at stake. Intrusions into the right to work would be inevitable, but dismissal as a coercion tool would not be used. Indeed, in a parliamentary debate conducted without pressure before the next pandemic hits, dismissal for vaccination refusal would likely not pass the tests of necessity (since the pandemic is temporary, a temporary suspension would suffice) and proportionality (uncertain benefits in exchange for a very severe blow to a fundamental right).

Ciprian Radavoi is an Associate Professor in the School of Law and Justice at the University of Southern Queensland.

Ciprian is a lawyer and former diplomat, currently teaching and undertaking legal research in Australia (international law, tort law, sports law, human rights and social justice).