Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

That might depend on your race. New research (ungated version here) from Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, and Randi Hjalmarsson uses data from criminal trials and finds “strong evidence that all-white juries acquit whites more often and are less favorable to black versus white defendants when compared to juries with at least one black member.” While perhaps not shocking, their research has meaningful implications: “Our findings speak to the substantial impact that variation in the composition of the jury pool can have on trial outcomes. If, for example, the jury pool in Sarasota County was 10 or 20 percent black instead of the 3 percent observed in the data, conviction rates for black defendants would be much lower and those for white defendants much higher than those observed in the data.”? [%comments]

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  1. frankenduf says:

    another reason the death penalty should be banned

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  2. Kevin says:

    what is the false conviction rates of all white juries vs. non-all white juries? does it matter if an all white jury convicts more often if those aren’t false convictions? or do non-all white juries give false acquittals more often?

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  3. Brett says:

    Kevin raises a good question, but unfortunately one that is impossible to answer.

    There’s an interesting concept at work here though… without data which is impossible to obtain (particularly the issue raised by Kevin), the charge of racism is being leveled towards jury members – or at least racism is being implied. Unfortunately, this is happening without a ‘trial’ and so the jury members are not being afforded the same “innocent until proven guilty” standard that is being studied herein.

    Hypocrisy among scientists/pollsters…. nah, that would never happen.

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  4. Mantonat says:

    Just another piece of evidence to prove that our justice system has very little to do with justice. Race is only one of the many forms of bias that juries can evince that lead them to a conclusion of guilt or innocence for reasons other than actual guilt or innocence.

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  5. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    Over a Decade since the OJ Simpson murder trial.

    Ask a White person: 95% says OJ was guilty.
    Ask a Black person: 95% says OJ was innocent.

    I say it is one of the Great Mysteries of the Universe–like Schrodinger’s Cat, JFK Assassination, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and the Proof of God.

    …. It impossible to know with certainty. Not even OJ knows!

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  6. kip says:

    If 95% of black people still really believe OJ was innocent (and I doubt it’s that high), it is due to either racism or ignorance of the case details. You couldn’t ask for a much clearer case. The only reason he was acquitted then was because DNA evidence was still new and the defense managed to get the jury to doubt its reliability. I don’t think he’d have a chance if the same evidence were presented against him today.

    If we’re going to call it racist when white juries acquit white defendants, we should at least apply the same judgment to black juries acquitting black defendants. To do otherwise would be racist.

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  7. John Ellis says:

    FYI, via Marginal Revolution blog, there is this on black vs white attitudes http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post?id=19964

    Can anyone provide a quick summary as to whether the race correlation is causative or simply a proxy of other things, like social class, type of crime, quality of evidence or willingess of witnesses to testify?

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  8. Dave says:

    … and your gender also matters. See, e.g., this study which argues that men face a problem of a similar degree as the racial bias which the original post notes.

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