Jurors Less Likely to Convict Defendants Wearing Glasses, Say Lawyers and 2008 Study

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Do juries take passes on criminal defendants who wear glasses?

Criminal defense lawyers apparently believe it’s the case, the New York Daily News reports. Increasingly they are asking their clients to wear glasses during jury trials.

The Daily News spoke to lawyer Harvey Slovis, who said defendants don’t look like they are capable of committing crimes when they wear glasses. “I’ve tried cases where there’s been a tremendous amount of evidence, but my client wore glasses, dressed well and got acquitted.”

One prosecutor agreed, calling glasses “an unspoken nerd defense.” The newspaper also cites a 2008 study (PDF) that found eyeglasses lead to more acquittals because they make defendants look more intelligent.

In the study, 220 undergraduate students were asked to judge a fictitious case involving a defendant accused of robbing and slashing a woman. The students were given folders describing the case, but some of the pictured defendants were black, some were white, some wore glasses, and some did not.

The students convicted 50 defendants who wore eyeglasses and 63 defendants who did not sport eyewear.

The study also found an “interaction effect” between the defendant’s race and eyeglasses. The African American defendants were rated as more attractive and more friendly when wearing glasses, but the white defendants were not. Both black and white defendants were rated as less threatening when wearing eyeglasses, but the effect was more pronounced for African American defendants.

The Daily News says the nerd defense apparently worked for Thomas Cordero. He was acquitted last month in the stabbing death of a paralegal who hired him to clean his house in the nude, despite DNA evidence and a confession. Cordero had maintained he confessed because he feared police.

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