Perceptions of alibi evidence as a function of the strength of incriminating *evidence

Maria Krioukova Shpurik, Florida International University


The current study investigated the exculpatory value of alibi evidence when presented together with various types of incriminating evidence. Previous research has reported that alibi evidence could weaken the effects of DNA evidence and eyewitness identification. The present study assessed the effectiveness of alibi evidence in counteracting defendant's confession (experiment 1) and eyewitness evidence (experiment 2). In experiment 1, three levels of alibi evidence (none, weak, strong) were combined with three levels of confession evidence (voluntary, elicited under low pressure, elicited under high pressure). Results indicated significant main effects of confession and alibi and an alibi by confession interaction. Of participants exposed to high-pressure confession, those in the strong alibi condition rendered lower guilt estimates than those in the no alibi condition. In experiment 2, three levels of alibi were combined with two levels of eyewitness evidence (bad view, good view). A main effect of alibi was obtained, but no interaction between alibi and eyewitness evidence. An explanation of this pattern is based in part on the Story Model (Pennington & Hastie, 1992) and a novel “culpability threshold” model of juror decision-making. The Story Model suggests that jurors generate verdict stories (interpretations of events consistent with a guilty or not guilty verdict) based on trial evidence. If the evidence in favor of guilt exceeds jurors' threshold for perceiving culpability, jurors will fail to properly consider exonerating evidence. However, when the strength of incriminating evidence does not exceed the jurors' threshold, they are likely to give appropriate consideration to exculpatory evidence in their decisions. Presentation of a reliable confession in Experiment 1 exceeded jurors' culpability threshold and rendered alibi largely irrelevant. In contrast, presentation of a high-pressure confession failed to exceed jurors' culpability threshold, so jurors turned to alibi evidence in their decisions. Similarly, in the second experiment, eyewitness evidence (in general) was not strong enough to surpass the culpability threshold, and thus jurors incorporated alibi evidence in their decisions. A third study is planned to further test this “culpability threshold” model, further explore various types of alibi evidence, and clarify when exculpatory evidence will sufficiently weaken the prosecution's “story.”

Subject Area

Social psychology|Cognitive therapy|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Shpurik, Maria Krioukova, "Perceptions of alibi evidence as a function of the strength of incriminating *evidence" (2003). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3125050.