Archive for the ‘Case Preparation’ Category
How much longer? 300% longer if you are a White woman and 450% longer if you are a Black woman. Seriously. Wow. A new report has been released comparing the federal white-collar crime sentences of men and women. The report was released by a group of female federal prison inmates and prepared in conjunction with a well-known research firm. What the report has to say is shocking. Here’s a comment from the press release we were sent to announce the report:
“If US Attorney Holder believes that the 20% sentencing disparity between black and Latino males and similarly situated white male offenders is “shameful”, as he stated in his recent address to the ABA announcing major changes in federal drug policy, then the 300% disparity between white males and similarly situated women (for black women the number is 450%) ought to prompt a revolution.”
–a quote from Dianne Wilkerson, an African-American female and former state senator from Massachusetts serving a 42-month sentence for extortion/bribery as a public official.
The report itself compares the sentences of 29 female and 31 male inmates (all of whom are currently incarcerated). The women inmates are all serving sentences at Danbury Federal Prison Camp for Women. The male inmates were selected from court records “limited primarily to the same states or regions from which the women came”. The report goes into extensive detail comparing the sentencing of men and women, African-American and Caucasian, by type of (white-collar) crime.
And here is just a little of what they report:
Female sentences are 3x as long as male sentences for federal white-collar crimes with similar losses.
Females who are African-American are sentenced to 4.5x as long as the sentences for males.
Female’s sentences average 155% of the recommended guidelines while males are only 52% of that guideline recommendation.
The text of the report goes to some length to express awareness that this is a small sample. However, they say, if this is indicative of the sentencing disparities between men and women convicted of federal white-collar crimes, there is a real problem here. We would agree. Recently, we wrote up a study on corporate fraud in the U.S. and looked at the roles of women and men in white-collar crime. The findings of that study make us especially concerned as to whether this small-scale report really does mirror the overall dynamic of the sentencing practices by race and gender for federal white-collar crime.
We look forward to the results of the national study now being completed by CultureQuantiX and examining sentences by gender and race. If the experience of the women incarcerated at the Danbury Federal Prison Camp for Women are consistent with those of women, in general, who have been sentenced for white-collar crime– a thorough policy revision needs to be undertaken..
Recently we shared the results of a study on gender and corruption. That study showed that both genders were capable of corruption and that corrupt behavior depended upon context. Researchers at Penn State recently released a study completed in America and looking at gender and corporate crime/fraud.
If you read the title of this post, you will not be surprised to learn that men lead the charge to corporate corruption. The researchers developed a database of 83 corporate frauds which involved a total of 436 defendants. After extensive data analysis, here is what they found:
Less than 1 out of 10 defendants was female (91% were male and 9% were female).
Whenever crimes were committed by a single person, that person was a male.
Almost 3/4 of the crimes committed by groups of people involved groups entirely composed of males. (Less than 1/3 of the groups contained both men and women. There were no all female conspiracy groups.)
All male conspiracies were concentrated in professional/scientific/technical and management services (where female employment is lower) while mixed-sex conspiracies were higher in finance/insurance, real estate and healthcare. In the latter areas, women make up more than half of the employees.
Female defendants were likely “to play minor roles in schemes”.
When you are female and involved in corporate conspiracies, you tend to profit significantly less than men (or not at all). You are often included in conspiracies because you have access to funds (through your job responsibilities) or because you are dating or partnered with a primary conspirator. You may be pressured to participate by your male significant other (who is involved in or initiating the activity). Yes. Women are marginalized even when committing corporate crimes! This is the only benefit to the ‘glass ceiling’ we have yet encountered.
The researchers say that if more women were in higher positions in American corporations we might have less corporate crime. They believe women might be more ethical decision-makers, more risk-averse, and less likely to foster a “criminogenic organization”. Alternately, say the researchers, more woman “would not make any difference because of organizational inertia and because women who move up the corporate ladder will be socialized into the ethos of commercial interests and market dominance at all costs”. In other words, “leaning in” might corrupt successful women.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, there is much to help Defense attorneys mitigate blame placed on female defendants charged with corporate fraud. Women who participate in these crimes are often pressured by men leading the effort. They are often recruited due to their “utility”–they have access to funds, they sign off on the reports or accounting statements. In short, the men directing the crimes need the woman’s access to sensitive information in order to be successful. Jurors would likely understand the pressure placed on these women to participate and would also understand the idea that the women were just being used for what they could offer.
If your female defendant was not only used but offered little to no profit for her activity (as was the case with most women defendants in this study), jurors may have additional sympathy for her. Your female defendant might be seen as a pawn in a master plan, or ensnared due to being the intimate partner of a man driving the effort. It is perhaps the only time when marginalization of a woman’s role works for her (in the larger cosmic picture).
Steffensmeier, DM, Schwartz, J, & Roche, M (2013). Gender and Twenty-First-Century corporate crime: Female involvement and the gender gap in Enron-era corporate frauds. American Sociological Review. DOI: 10.1177/0003122413484150
I listen to a lot of audiobooks while driving or flying or cooking or cleaning. I rarely listen to academic tomes. Instead, I like to be entertained with mysteries and thrillers or suspenseful stories. Lately, I have purchased several highly rated mysteries only to discover they are romance novels in disguise.
It is irksome and I am grateful to have discovered I can return the unwanted book and download another. I complained about this to a fellow audiobook devotee and he gave me a “never fails” filter to avoid romance novels in disguise, even when the author writes under a pseudonym to fool you. He apologized for the method being so sexist, but I will attest to the general effectiveness. When a new (to me) author has multiple 5 star ratings for a mystery and the publisher is not listed, you peruse the individual reviews. If the reviews are entirely written by women, you have likely found a bodice-ripping romance novel. And I move along to the next title.
So it is with a sense that perhaps we need to apologize to the readers of romance novels everywhere that I share this research finding:
Readers of romantic fiction are better at sensing what others are feeling.
Maybe its because they read romance novels. Maybe it is the reason they are attracted to this genre. Romance novel readers are better, according to these researchers, at interpreting subtle facial cues and identifying the emotions those cues express.
The researchers had people indicate names of fiction writers they recognized (from a variety of genres with some fake names thrown in) and then asked them to look at cropped pictures of actors that only showed the area around the eyes. Only those who were fans of romance novels (as compared to those who read domestic fiction, science fiction/fantasy and suspense/thrillers) excelled in accurately identifying the emotions the actors were expressing. The researchers say,
“It may be that the emotional experiences evoked by romance novels lead to rumination on past relationship experiences, perhaps encouraging readers to puzzle out the complexities of their own past romantic relationships.”
While we would (suspiciously) point out that the photos used were of actors simulating emotions, there has been a belief for years that we can read emotions from facial expressions.
Whether our mock jurors talk about knowing how to read emotions in faces or focus in on what they believe to be the meaning of various eye movements, we know the (generally inaccurate) belief that we can intuit whether someone speaks the truth via facial expression or eye movement is deeply embedded in American belief systems. So our task in pretrial research is not to debunk those beliefs but rather, to identify what nonverbal behavior prompts the assumption. Once we know what sparks the assumptions, we can work with the witness to minimize that distracting behavior so actual jurors can focus on listening rather than assuming.
So am I going to start reading romance novels to get better at identifying and interpreting subtle facial expressions? No. I think the results of this study could also serve as a tip that the romance novel reader may read between the lines a little more than others and jump to conclusions that are not warranted by the evidence. There are times that might be a good thing and times it will not.
Fong, K, Mullin, JB, & Mar, RA (2013). What you read matters: The role of fiction genre in predicting interpersonal sensitivity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. DOI: 10.1037/a0034084
Words matter. We are used to seeing ‘Like’ buttons or ‘Recommend’ buttons on social media sites. Many news media sites have adopted these buttons as well. New research from the Engaging News Project shows that if readers are given a ‘Respect’ button option, they are more likely to click it to share an opposing viewpoint.
Researchers say it is challenging for us to ‘like’ an opposing political viewpoint. It seems somehow wrong to ‘like’ a tragic event. When these researchers asked why site visitors would click on social media buttons on webpages, they got varied responses.
“People use social media buttons on news sites to share information with others (41%), to indicate high-quality information (41%), and to express their agreement (36%).”
They wondered if a ‘Like’ button encouraged people to think in terms of agreement or disagreement and whether an alternate button could encourage consideration of comment quality rather than simple agreement or disagreement. Given the level of political discord in this country, the researchers wanted to see if response patterns to comments would change when readers had the opportunity to ‘Respect’ rather than to ‘Like’ or ‘Recommend’.
They modified a website so that readers saw the same comments and stories, but had different buttons they could click in response to the comments. Some could only ‘Like’, others could only ‘Recommend’, and still others could only ‘Respect’. Data was collected from more than 700 people. The researchers were right: Site visitors were “more likely to click on comments endorsing different political views when they had a ‘respect’ button to use, compared to having a ‘like’ or ‘recommend’ button available.” The researchers urge newsrooms to consider the consequences of the the labels on social media buttons. They think the use of ‘Respect’ buttons could help citizens find common ground rather than reinforcing divisions.
We think it’s a good reminder for trial lawyers as well. Words matter. The words you use may be ‘hot buttons’ for various jurors. Once they hear that “code word”, they will see you as sharing their values or as being diametrically opposed to their values. We often hear about these sorts of associations from mock jurors during pretrial research. Sometimes they make sense and other times they are an idiosyncratic leap that leaves us scratching our heads.
“He kept saying ‘choice’ and I think he wants me to support his case because I am pro-choice.”
“I don’t like how she keeps saying, “it’s just business” when it is not that at all. This is all about treating people without respect and that isn’t how I want business to be done in my community.”
“I feel like he is speaking in code. As though somehow just because she is a single mother, we should think she is lacking in family values.”
“Why does he keep looking at me while he is talking? Does he think a white male is going to support his case more?”
What would it mean to your case if instead of advocating support or affirmation of a position, you spoke of “respect”? It seems to me that what you are asking for with respect is complex, integrating values, behavior, and the complexities of context surrounding a dispute. It is an intriguing idea, loaded with nuances. Stop back and visit The Jury Room again– this is one we will be watching.
Listen to your case presentation and see whether there are assumptions or biases or ‘hot button phrases’ included in it. It is ideal if you can present it in front of mock jurors to see if they hear anything you do not want to communicate. If you can’t do that, ask people you ‘respect’ to listen to your presentation. While you hopefully would not include a gaffe like this politician did on the House floor, words can be land mines.
Defuse your case narrative by removing phrases that could turn a listener against your client.
We bring you various psychological questionnaires from time to time. You heard about the GASP scale here (a measure of how prone you are to shame and guilt). Let’s not forget we also told you about the Depravity Scale (when describing specific behaviors, just how creepy, heinous, or depraved are they?). We’ve also shown you items from multiple other “odd” psychological measures but today we are topping them all by introducing the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies (CAST) Scale. It doesn’t get freakier than this one.
This is a measure from one of the members of Paulhus’ research group. This is the research group that originally identified the “dark triad” of personality characteristics often used to describe those who grow up to be narcissists, psychopaths and Machiavellians. I read this research and I can’t help but to think of bad roommates and ill-advised romances. But there is a range, and one end of the scale gets pretty scary. To wit, sometimes they grow up to be serial killers. Now the members of this fun-loving research group are considering whether “everyday sadism” [which we wrote about earlier] should be added to the three personality characteristics to create a “dark tetrad”. That’s right– there is “everyday sadism”.
We ran across this measure when writing up an earlier blog post on every day sadism which used the VAST Scale (Varieties of Sadistic Tendencies). The CAST is a refinement of the VAST and, as such, we knew you would want to see it. Because when it comes to “everyday sadism”, we know you want to be totally up to date. Here are some sample questions from the measure.
When making fun of someone, it is especially amusing if they realize what I’m doing.
I enjoy physically hurting people.
I have the right to push certain people around.
In video games, I like the realistic blood spurts.
I sometimes replay my favorite scenes from gory slasher films.
In professional car-racing, it’s the accidents that I enjoy most.
There are multiple ways you could use a measure like the CAST. While it is unlikely to be something you can use during voir dire, it may have multiple other uses for your professional and personal life. When you’re interviewing candidates for key positions, you can’t ask questions this weird, but you can allow your radar to keep this spectrum in mind. In some criminal cases, this area of inquiry might be important to explore. And of course, when you are on a first date (or meeting someone your daughter thinks is date-material) it’s all fair game.
The temptations to joke around about this topic are really irresistible, until you think about the people who would agree with those statements. When you hear about people who have compulsive or addictive interest in first-person shooter video games later becoming mass murderers (such as Adam Lanza at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and Aaron Alexis at the Washington Navy Yard), this sort of “everyday sadism” raises urgent questions. Keep in mind, though, that whatever might be said about players of these violent games, the men involved in these shootings were suffering from paranoid psychoses, not merely a preoccupation with violence.
What this research group tells us is that sadists are everywhere, to one degree or another. Sadists are much more common than we would like to think. They literally walk among us. Now…you have the tool with which to identify them. You’re welcome.
Buckels, E. E., Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies (CAST). Unpublished measure, University of British Columbia.
Buckels EE, Jones DN, & Paulhus DL (2013). Behavioral Confirmation of Everyday Sadism. Psychological Science PMID: 24022650