Emily Haynes

Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Andre Kehn


Evidence of a prior criminal record can be admitted if it holds substantial probative value (Fed. R. Evid. 403) or to evaluate defendant characteristics and credibility (Fed. R. Evid. 404.; Fed. R. Evid. 609). However, despite admittance for these purposes, the evidence of a prior criminal record has been demonstrated to influence verdicts and ratings of guilt. The majority of previous research supports the conclusion that a prior criminal record, specifically a prior conviction, inflates guilty verdicts. The present study sought to assess previous findings related to the evidence of a prior criminal record and expand upon the literature by manipulating the effect of the strength of evidence and the defendant’s decision to testify within a written case scenario provided to a jury-eligible sample. After reading the case scenario, participants completed sentencing decision and several measures to determine their perceptions and attitudes. Weak evidence produced significantly more “not guilty” verdicts from mock-jurors. Additionally, strong evidence influenced perceptions of the defendant. However, the evidence of a prior criminal record and the defendant’s decision to testify had no significant effects on sentencing decisions or perception of the defendant. The current functionality of the Federal Rules of Evidence related to prior criminal records is discussed.