We explore how television broadcasting of unrelated criminal justice events affects sentencing. Exploiting as-good-as-random variation in news content before a verdict, we find that sentences are 3 months longer when the verdict is reached after coverage of crime. Sentence increase with media exposure to crime, not crime itself, and the effect tapers off quickly. Our results suggest that professional experience and expertise mitigates the effect of irrelevant external information. This paper highlights the influence of noise in the news cycle: media can temporarily influence decisions by changing what is top-of-the-mind, rather than signaling deeper changes in offending or societal concerns.
courts; media; sentencing; crime; judicial decision; cognitive bias;
- D83: Search • Learning • Information and Knowledge • Communication • Belief
- K14: Criminal Law
- K4: Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
- L82: Entertainment • Media
Journal of Political Economy, 2018, forthcoming