Scamming elders: The effect of witness testimony on courtroom perceptions of elder financial abuse

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The present study investigated the influence of witnesses to elder financial abuse (EFA) on jurors' perceptions in the courtroom. Specifically, men and women (N = 138) mock jurors read a fictional trial summary describing an 85-year-old woman being scammed (i.e., money was illegally taken due to deception). Some mock jurors read about the presence of a female witness (aged 35 or 85 years old) or there was no witness. Results indicated that pro-victim judgments (e.g., guilty verdicts, positive victim judgments, and negative defendant judgments) were more likely when an elderly witness testified for the elderly victim, than when either a younger witness testified or there was no witness testimony. Additionally, mediation and network analysis revealed that anger toward the defendant motivated differences in pro-victim judgments when the witness was elderly versus when the witness was young. Results were discussed in terms of implications of witness testimony in EFA court cases.

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