The beautiful people can get away with murder. Or, at least, get themselves a reduced sentence compared to law-breaking knuckle-draggers.

It’s not surprising that the courtroom is a placed where people get judged the most, but it should be the bad deeds, not the twisted teeth that seal a person’s fate.

But that’s not the case.

It’s long been folklore among lawyers that attractive people get attractive sentences but now American researchers have carried out some trials to test the tradition.

A study by New York’s Cornell University found that unattractive defendants tend to land longer, harsher sentences – about 22 months longer in prison if academic research plays out in real life.

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As we all know from the OJ Simpson trial, it’s all down to how the juror processes information – emotionally or rationally.

“Jurors inclined to process information in a more emotional/intuitive manner would be more prone to make reasoning errors when rendering verdicts and recommending sentences as opposed to rational processors. The results bore out our hypothesis on all measures,” said lead author Justin Gunnell.

The study, When Emotionality Trumps Reason, will be published in Behavioral Sciences and the Law .

Which are you?

Rational thinkers process information based on facts, analysis and logic. Emotional thinkers may consider such legally irrelevant factors as a defendant’s appearance, race, gender and class and report that the less-attractive defendant appeared more like the “type of person” that would commit a crime.

Each type of thinker is favoured in a different kind of case. Where evidence is strong, a lawyer favours the rational thinker. Where there’s a hard-luck case – a poor defendant – then an emotional thinker is king.

"How jurors think, process and reason are an important step in understanding potential flaws in the justice system, as crucial decisions ultimately rest in their hands,” said Gunnell.