STUDIES: The Role of Implicit Racial Bias in the Death Penalty

By edeleon

A new study testing internal attitudes and stereotypes among potential jurors in six death penalty states may help to explain the racial disparities that persist in the application of capital punishment. Researchers Justin Levinson (l.), Robert Smith (r.), and Danielle Young tested 445 jury-eligible individuals and found they harbored two kinds of racial bias: they maintained racial stereotypes about Blacks and Whites and made associations between the race of an individual and the value of his or her life. Those studied tended to associate Whites more with “worth” and Blacks with “worthless.” The study further found that death-qualified jurors held stronger racial biases than potential jurors who would be excluded from serving in death penalty cases.

Justin D. Levinson is a Professor of Law and the Director of the Culture and Jury Project, University of Hawai`i at Manoa Law School. Robert J. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Danielle M. Young is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Rutgers University.

(J. Levinson, et al., “Devaluing Death: An Empirical Study of Implicit Racial Bias on Jury-Eligible Citizens in Six Death Penalty States,” New York University Law Review (forthcoming); DPIC posted August 29, 2013). See Race. Read more studies on the death penalty. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on race.

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