Race And Jury Verdict Predictions: When Is Race A Factor In Conviction Proneness?

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Clinical Psychology


The tendency for lawyers to use their peremptory challenges to exclude all blacks from juries when the opposing side's client is black and their client is not suggests that attorney's believe that race plays a crucial role in verdict preferences in racially sensitive trials. These is some empirical evidence that blacks are more lenient than whites in their jury decisions, and that a positive relationship exists between leniency and juror-defendant similarity, but these findings are by no means consistent. This study examined the effect of racial similarity/dissimilarity, whereby the race of the jurors, defendants and victims were systematically varied, on verdict choices. Eighty prospective jurors summoned for jury duty in Miami, Florida were asked to read a transcript of a murder trial, reach a verdict, and complete a series of questionnaires. The influence of a juror's demographic, attitude, experience, and authoritarianism characteristics on making verdict selections was also explored.The results indicated that the race of a juror had no effect on verdict preferences for inter- and intraracial murder trials. However there was a slight tendency for blacks to select first degree murder verdicts more often than whites, and a significant tendency for jurors to find the defendant guilty of first degree murder more frequently when the victim was black. When the verdict was guilty of a lesser offense, jurors were more inclined to so vote when the victim's race matched their own. The juror variables best predictive of verdict choices included gender, military experience, the quality of one's experiences with law enforcement officers and agencies, prior experience as a crime victim, prior experience as a victim of crime perpetrated by an opposite race offender, previous jury experience, gun ownership, the purpose of gun ownership, and level of authoritarianism. No attitude variables qualified as significant predictors of verdict group membership. Level of authoritarianism proved to be a better predictor of verdict preferences in racially matched or mixed murder trials than did the race of the juror, the race of the defendant, or the race of the victim.


Psychology, Clinical

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