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Race and the decision making of juries

by Samuel R Sommers
Legal and Criminological Psychology ()
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The relationship between race and jury decision making is a controversial topic that has received increased attention in recent years. While public and media discourse has focused on anecdotal evidence in the form of high-profile cases, legal researchers have considered a wide range of empirical questions including: To what extent does the race of a defendant affect the verdict tendencies of juries? Is this influence of race comparable for jurors of different races? In what ways does a jury's racial composition affect its verdict and deliberations? The present review examines both experimental and archival investigations of these issues. Though the extant literature is not always consistent and has devoted too little attention to the psychological mechanisms underlying the influence of race, this body of research clearly demonstrates that race has the potential to impact trial outcomes. This is a conclusion with important practical as well as theoretical implications when it comes to ongoing debates regarding jury representativeness, how to optimize jury performance, jury nullification and racial disparities in the administration of capital punishment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

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