James M. Leu

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. John K. Brilhart


The “Free Press v. Fair Trial” issue is the one in need of research, yet few students examining its effects have been forthcoming. Those studies that have been made have not adequately isolated the variables in the pre-trial publicity to permit meaningful conclusions. The present study was directed at exploring the effects of prejudicial pre-trial publicity on the defendant’s perceived character and guilt. Sixty-nine undergraduate students were assigned to one of four conditions, receiving either prejudicial or non-prejudicial pre-trial publicity either one or thirty days before they were asked to rule on the defendant’s guilt. A synopsis of evidence was provided in place of a trial. Prejudicial pre-trial publicity has a negative effect on perceived character. Exposure to prejudicial pre-trial publicity one day before trial did not result in lower defendant character ratings at trial than did exposure to prejudicial publicity thirty days before trial. No relationship was found between prejudicial pre-trial publicity and received guilt at trial. A relationship was found between perceived character and perceived guilt.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Speech and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1974 James M. Leu.