Thursday, August 12, 2010

Will Casey Anthony’s Physical Appearance and Body Language Help Spare or End Her Life?

by Dr. Lillian Glass

As a body-language and communication expert, I have spent more than 20 years studying human behavior. I know a great deal about how people think and what they perceive about others. This information has been valuable to attorneys who've have used my consulting expertise, especially when it comes to picking a jury and preparing witnesses for trial.

In jury selection, the way a person looks or speaks can have a great impact on how the jury perceives them. My research has shown that a person who speaks well is perceived as more physically attractive than those who do not speak well.

While we would like to think that decisions jurors make about the fate of defendants in a court of law are based solely on the facts and the evidence, the reality is that in many instances, this may not be the case.

Recent studies confirm what we have known for decades -- that the way a person looks and speaks can influence others' perceptions of guilt or innocence. As superficial and unfair as it seems, attractive defendants are judged more positively than unattractive ones.

In a survey done a few years ago, close to 95 percent of the respondents said that a defendant’s physical appearance shouldn't bias a jury. More than 80 percent said only a defendant's character and previous history should influence jurors' decisions.

However, in a mock jury trial, it was found that physically attractive defendants were evaluated with less certainty of guilt and received a less severe punishment than for those perceived as unattractive defendants.

Studies, however, have also shown that female jurors tend to be less sympathetic towards female defendants when they perceive that the woman on trial has used her good looks to her advantage.

So if female jurors are able to see photos of Casey Anthony’s partying, hear testimony of her past behaviors, and believe she used her looks or charm to manipulate family members, friends, and especially boyfriends to get what she wanted, a majority of them will not look favorably upon her.

On the other hand, male jurors' reactions are often the opposite. They tend to give attractive women the benefit of the doubt. Based on what we have seen in jailhouse letters sent to Casey behind bars by male fans, she has received a considerable number of compliments about her attractive physical appearance.

Some of these infatuated men, all of whom she has never even met, think nothing of adding money to her jailhouse account. Others want to date her; some want to take care of her. A number of men want to go away with her, while others write that they want to marry her.

If male jurors in Casey's trial on charges she murdered her own two-year-old daughter, Caylee, also find Casey physically attractive, this may have a significant implications, not only in whether or not she's is found guilty, but also in the degree and severity of her punishment if she is. Thus her physical attractiveness could be a key factor as to whether or not she gets the death penalty.

Perhaps the attorneys might want to ask all potential male jurors whether they find Casey Anthony physically attractive, by using a Likert-type five-point rating scale. Those who give her the top score of 5 will most likely be the ones to spare her life.

But the only thing that will equalize Casey’s looks and how people perceive her is her body language. As the old saying goes, “pretty is as pretty does.” As we have already seen in Casey’s body language in the courtroom these past two years, she has some pretty negative behaviors. When they leak out, they can’t help but alienate jurors. So in the long run, her looks will be balanced out by her body language.

The evidence in the Casey Anthony case should definitely speak for itself. But like it or not, based on the results of research on physical appearance which has been documented through the years, chances are that it may not be the only thing that jurors are evaluating when it comes to deciding Casey’s guilt or innocence or whether she will live or die.


Andrea Campbell said...

Dr. Lillian,

So glad you are on board here with us at Womenincrimeink. I find this an endlessly interesting topic: is justice really blind? The icon of Lady Justice is blindfolded but juries are not. The Casey Anthony case has had a lot of press and I think the voice of female mothers everywhere will do her in. You can't be caught partying when your child is missing.

Delilah said...

As always, your observations are fascinating.

iustitia_est_defluo said...

Mrs. Campbell,...

Justice is that Blindfolded girl holding the scales which measure mans Irony.

Rarely does she serve any purpose, since we as a society use the economy to settle our social and domestic disputes in a court of law which by design often caters to the rich, while at the same time glorifies the offender, who in turn becomes an admired movie of the week or case study in psychology that often misses its mark.

True Justice is blinding any monster from seeing its Prey.

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Frederico said...

I've heard this as well that good looking rapists who have jobs and families are often let off because a jury doesn't think they "look" like a rapist.

A Voice of Sanity said...

In Texas, T. Cullen Davis and Robert Durst were found not guilty in their various trials despite rock solid evidence against each of them.

Ms Anthony might do better in a bench trial considering the paucity of actual evidence against her.

body language said...

love your blog.