Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Race Colors Judgement Essay Example for Free

Race Colors Judgement Essay The criminal justice system in the United States is one of the many places that I believe stereotypes are formed. For example, African-Americans make up only 13% of the U. S. population but represent 46% of the inmate population who have received sentences of more than one year (Hart, 2006, p. 1). Another example of a racial disparity can be seen the percentage of African-Americans who are drug users (14%) and those sentenced for drug offenses (53%) (Sentencing Project, 2009 p. 3). More African-American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole then were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,† (Alexander, 2010). However, this is not just a problem within the African-American community. More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities and three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color (www. sentencingproject. org). The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows, that the likelihood for an African-American or Hispanic to be imprisoned is, 18. % for African-Americans and 10% for Hispanics, while the likelihood for Whites is 3. 4% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005). Brennan and Spohn (2009) showed in their study, â€Å"The Joint Effects of Offender Race/Ethnicity and Sex on Sentence Length Decisions in Federal Courts†, that African-American males received a significantly longer sentence (93 months) than White males (86. 2 months) (Brennan Spohn, 2009). These are just some of the numbers, which cannot be ignored. An important question to ask; why are these racial disparities happening? In the study â€Å"White juror bias: An investigation of racial prejudice against Black defendants in the American courtroom†, Sommers Ellsworth (2001) have a quote, which, I think, sums up the reasoning for studying race and its effect on juries, it came from one of my favorite movies: â€Å"In our courts, when it is a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life†¦The one place where man ought to get a square deal is a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into the jury box† (From To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee, 1960, p. 20). The thinking by many social psychologists is â€Å"Racism still exists in our society today but is no longer endorsed by explicit racist beliefs or overt acts of prejudice† (Sommers Ellsworth, 2003). Instead it’s a â€Å"Subtle, implicit, or aversive form of racism† (Sommers Ellsworth, 2003). Whites in our society are taught to embrace egalitarianism (equality) and make a conscious effort to behave non-prejudice, or have non-bias beliefs. However, that does not mean that they still don’t harbor prejudicial attitudes. In a trial setting aversive racism and race salience, or racially charged vs. racially neutral, go hand and hand. Studies have concluded, a trial that is racially charged reminds jurors of their egalitarianism, but in a trial not racially charged a jurors’ motivation to avoid being prejudice is not triggered; instead they demonstrate their racial bias (Sommers Ellsworth, 2001). It is the run of the mill trials where juror biases are displayed. White jurors need to be â€Å"reminded† that they should not have a bias. By â€Å"reminding† them, by a racially motivated incident, jury voir dire, jury instructions before deliberation, and others, White jurors are less likely to demonstrate racial bias towards an African-American defendant. Jury composition or heterogeneity vs. homogeneity groups, is theorized to be a huge factor in overall group decision-making skills. This is especially important in the jury decision-making process and verdicts because minorities are underrepresented on a jury. Sommers’s study â€Å"Racial Diversity and Group Decision Making† (2006) concluded, a jury, which has heterogeneity, rather than homogeneity considers a wider range of perspectives and information (Sommers, 2006). It was the diversity of the group influence on the White juror more than the performance of the African-American juror in the group (Sommers, 2006). This is not to say that the African-American juror did not perform well. Since many juries are not racially diverse, Whites on a jury may forget their egalitarian values, may not consider a wider range of perspectives and information, and will spend less time on their decisions. In-group bias is when people show a strong preference for fellow in-group members and tend to malign out-group members (Sommers Ellsworth, 2000). Thomas Pettigrew, current Research Professor of Social Psychology at the University of California, in his 1979 study demonstrated that negative behaviors of in-group members were attributed to situational forces but negative behaviors of out-group members were attributed to inherent dispositions, which is the opposite from positive behavior attribution (Sommers Ellsworth, 2000). This is a particularly important theory because juries for criminal trials are taking in facts pertaining to the negative behavior of a defendant who is either from their in-group or out-group. Systematic information processing is conceptualized as â€Å"Comprehensive analytic orientation to inform processing in which perceivers access and scrutinize a great deal of information for its relevance to their judgment task† (Tamborini et al. , 2007) Heuristic processing is conceptualized as â€Å"A more limited mode of information processing that requires less cognitive effort and fewer cognitive resources than systematic processing† (Tamborini et al. , 2007) Simple stated, heuristic information processing are shortcuts using previous knowledge and stereotypes, which influences peoples’ judgments. During a trial, jurors take in enormous amounts of information and when deliberating they tend to fill in the missing information with past experiences or stereotypes about certain crimes and criminals. This is not their intention, however it is how people cognitively process information-we put information into or take it out of certain categories. There are three main research methods used to study race and its effects on juries (Sommers Ellsworth, 2003). Archival analysis of actual cases is ideal but there are a lot of confounding variables, which are hard to measure and control statistically (Sommers Ellsworth, 2003). Another method used is post-trial juror interviews. This method is useful because you are asking direct questions of the jurors, who were part of the real trials. However, it is time consuming, has a small sample size, and relies on self-reporting by jurors (which in unreliable) (Sommers Ellsworth, 2003). The third method is mock juror experiments, which relies on the experimental method of social psychology and allows the experimenters to control the confounding variables (Sommers Ellsworth, 2003). There are some downfalls to using mock juror experiments as well, such as using college students as participants, written trial summaries, instead of witnessing a real trial, and the decision made by mock jurors have no real consequences (Sommers Ellsworth, 2003). According to Sommers and Ellsworth (2003) it is best to use multiple methods. For example compare archival data to mock jury data. As I stated earlier, aversive racism and race salience (racially charged vs. racially neutral) in trials go hand and hand. Sommers and Ellsworth (both social psychologists) first studied race salience in their study, â€Å"Race in he Courtroom: Perceptions of Guilt and Dispositional Attributions† (2000). Since the theory of aversive racism (modern or subtle) states, Whites are more motivated to â€Å"appear† non-prejudice when racial issues are salient or prominent. They found that when a trial involves race salience the race of the defendant did not influence the White jurors (Sommers Ellsworth, 2000). However, when a trail did not have race salience, the African-American defendants were found to be more guilty, aggressive, and violent by the White juror then the White defendant. This could have a profound effect, since Whites are not caught up in the day to day of racial issues, they may not take notice to the most subliminal racial issues in a trial. It may cause them to revert back to the more overt form of racism without even consciously knowing they are being racist or displaying their biases. A more recent study, â€Å"Diversity and Fairness in the Jury System†, conducted for the Ministry of Justice Research Series, by Thomas and Blamer (2007) concluded when a trial is racially charged (race salience), conviction rates for African-American defendants were lower. However, the conviction rate between White jurors and African-American jurors for African-American defendants were no different (Thomas Balmer, 2007) (44% and 43%). In trials that were racially neutral, White jurors had low conviction rates for African-American defendants, while African-American jurors had high conviction rates for White defendants and low conviction rates for African-American defendants (Thomas Balmer, 2007). This was a very interesting finding because in the Sommers and Ellsworth studies (2000, 2001) African-American jurors showed leniency both in race salience and non-race salience trials. Thomas and Balmer (2007) point out that in the Sommers and Ellsworth study that jurors did not decide cases as part of a jury with any deliberations (Thomas Balmer, 2007). The results in the Thomas and Blamer study showed that individual jurors had difference conviction rates, but as a jury there was no difference between race salience and non-race salience trails (Thomas Blamer, 2007). None of the juries (there were 8 in all) in the Thomas and Blamer (2007) study convinced the White defendant, The juries in England and Wales where this study took place have the same makeup as juries in the United States, majority White (Thomas Balmer, 2007). That makes a nice segway into my next theory of jury composition because it appears that they dynamic of a racially mixed jury helped ensure individual biases were not allowed to dictate verdicts (Thomas Balmer, 2007). Justice Thurgood Marshall said, â€Å"Diverse juries enjoy wider ranging discussions because White and Black jurors bring different experiences and perspectives to the jury room† (Sommers, 2006). Not only do African-American jurors bring different experiences but also, as we saw in the Thomas and Balmer (2007) study a racially mixed jury might help to ensure individual biases are not allowed to dictate verdicts. Again, referring to a study by Sommers (the leading researcher in this field) in which he specifically studies â€Å"The multiple effects of racial composition on jury deliberations† (Sommers, 2006). Having African-Americans (or minorities in general) on a jury can bring two different types of diversity-deep-level diversity and surface-level diversity (Sommers, 2007). Both can affect information exchange in different ways. Deep-level diversity brings the expertise, attitudes, and values of the individual members to the deliberation room (Sommers, 2007). Surface-level diversity brings members’ demographics and social category membership into the deliberation room (Sommers, 2007). Sommers’ (2006) found diverse groups spent more time deliberating, made fewer factual errors, and if there was an error it was more likely to be corrected, more open-mindness, and less resistance to discussions of controversial race topics (Sommers, 2006). The homogenous jury was the opposite (Sommers, 2006). Those results showed the affect deep-level diversity could bring to a jury. However, another aspect, which will bring me back to the theory of aversive racism and race salience, is the affect having diversity has on a White juror. By having a racially diverse jury, the White jurors have the issue of race and egalitarian values in the forefront of their minds. The White jurors are avoiding seeming bias. Sommers et al. , (2008) conducted a study to see if there are â€Å"Cognitive effects of racial diversity in a group. † The study found that Whites in a diverse group process information more thoroughly. They had no interaction with a diverse group member, it was simply being aware of a diverse group composition, which impacted the cognition of White members. It even improved reading comprehension of race-relevant passages, especially when Whites expected to have race-relevant conversation. This is important in a legal context as well. If a White juror’s cognitive ability, and information processing is improved they will use systematic processing which is â€Å"A comprehensive, analytic orientation to information processing in which perceivers access and scrutinize a great deal of information for its relevance to their judgment task†, instead of heuristics processing or shortcuts in their decision making (Tamborini et al. 2007). The Supreme Court attempted to make juries more racially diverse â€Å"Batson prohibition against race-based peremptories was based on two assumptions: (1) a prospective juror’s race can bias a jury selection judgments; (2) requiring attorneys to justify suspicious peremptories enables judges to determine whether a challenge is, indeed, race-neutral† (Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U. S. 79 (1986). To summarize the findings, White jurors tend to show their bias towards African-American defendants when the trial is not racially charged because they are not motivated to conceal their bias (aversive racism and egalitarian views). In homogenous juries Whites are more like to be bias, spend less time on their decisions, make more errors, consider fewer perspectives, are not motivated to conceal their bias. Also, when there is information overload jurors use heuristics (shortcuts) to process information, rather than a systematic review of the information. Tis effect, of using shortcuts, produces bias judgment for both African-American jurors and White jurors. All the aforementioned could be cause for the bias decision making of jurors and juries. However, there are positives that can be found throughout these studies. For instance, racially diverse juries, and race salience trials can help alleviate the biases by jurors and juries. It also proves that not all White juries are affected by the race of a defendant (in certain situations). Race and its effect on jury decisions is a topic that will be studied for years to come because of the complex nature of a jury and modern racism. Although studies have shown bias decision-making by White jurors there is still not enough statistics to make a causal connection. Research has also shown ways in which a jury’s bias can be minimized. The jury is one of the backbones of the court system, because of this, it is imperative that we continue to study juror bias and how to minimize their bias through different trial techniques and policies and procedures.

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