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Thread: The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials

  1. #1
    Landlord of the Dog and Duck Subteigh's Avatar
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    Default The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials

    In a great paper, The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials, Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer and Randi Hjalmarsson exploit random variation in the jury pool to estimate the effect of race on criminal trials. The authors have data from nearly 800 trials in two Florida counties. On any given day, a jury pool is randomly drawn from a master list based on driver’s licenses. On some days, the pool of about 30 people contains some black members and on other days, purely for random reasons, it does not. The voir dire process–>removals, excuses and challenges–whittles down the jury pool to 6 jury members with typically 1 alternate.

    The authors have data on the race, gender, and age of each member of the jury pool as well as each member of the ultimate jury. The authors also know the race and gender of the defendant and the charges. What the authors discover is that all white juries are 16% more likely to convict black defendants than white defendants but the presence of just a single black person in the jury pool equalizes conviction rates by race. The effect is large and remarkably it occurs even when the black person is not picked for the jury. The latter may not seem possible but the authors develop an elegant model of voir dire that shows how using up a veto on a black member of the pool shifts the characteristics of remaining pool members from which the lawyers must pick; that is, a diverse jury pool can make for a more “ideologically” balanced jury even when the jury is not racially balanced.

    The author’s results show not only that blacks and whites are treated differently depending on the composition of the jury pool but also that random variation in the jury pool adds to the variability of sentences holding race constant. Like is not treated as like. The results also suggest that we don’t need racial quotas to increase fairness. We can increase fairness and reduce variability in a racially neutrally way by expanding the size of juries. Six-person juries have become common because they are cheap(er) but a return to twelve person juries would reduce the variability of sentences and greatly equalize conviction rates across race.

    Quite astonishing...something really ought be done about it.

  2. #2
    Glorious Member mu4's Avatar
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    Tyler Cowen is kinda of a interesting fellow, as he's shifting ever so carefully to the left and progressive despite his libertarian-milquetoast past and current positions.

    "greatly equalize conviction rates across race"...

    This is the kind of comment that's interesting because of how it really doesn't say much, it's likely a good suggestion but what is the situation at the end of it, is the change going to reduce the bias to 0%?. The change is 6-11% btw. This still leaves a significant inequity in judgement, it's a bandaid and maybe the only viable change implementable, but the social cause of the issue is something that doesn't get eliminated by the procedural change(which is unlikely given shrinking state budgets in Florida).
    The mind a killing weapon
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