Jurors’ perceptions of adolescent sexual assault victims who have intellectual disabilities.

Children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities are especially likely to be sexually abused. Even so, their claims are not likely to be heard in court, possibly because people assume that jurors will not believe them. We tested this assumption in a mock-trial study in which 160 men and women watched videotaped excerpts from an actual trial. As predicted, when the 16-year-old sexual assault victim was portrayed as “mildly mentally retarded” instead of as “having average intelligence,” jurors were more likely to vote guilty and had more confidence in the defendant’s guilt; considered the victim to be more credible and the defendant to be less credible as witnesses; and rated the victim as more honest, less capable of fabricating the sexual abuse accusation, and less likely to have fabricated the sexual abuse accusation. Men and women were affected similarly by the disability manipulation, but women were generally more pro-prosecution in their case judgments and perceptions than were men. Finally, jurors who had more liberal views toward persons with disabilities were more likely than other jurors to make pro-prosecution judgments on measures of guilt. Implications for psychological theory and the law are discussed.