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Paper suggests ways to reduce juror racial bias

Criminal defense attorneys in Texas can reduce juror racial bias by addressing discrimination during trials and pretrial hearings, according to a new paper by an assistant federal public defender in Arizona. The document dealt with bias against Latinos, but its findings could be applied to any minority defendant.

The paper, which was recently published in the Seattle Journal for Social Justice, claims that empirical studies show attorneys can take several steps to decrease the risk of race bias in jurors. For example, attorneys may use pretrial motions to allege that authorities targeted a defendant based on his or her race. This accusation can be backed up by the testimony of expert witnesses. The defense could also introduce evidence of a police officer's arrest record if it demonstrates a history of bias.

According to the paper, other effective strategies include educating and testing jurors on racial bias during preliminary examinations, developing a positive narrative about the defendant during hearings and instructing juries to guard against implicit racial bias when considering the case. The author also reminds attorneys to be aware of their own potential implicit biases when choosing which clients to defend.

Defendants charged with federal crimes can face lengthy incarceration, heavy fines and other harsh consequences in the event they are convicted. However, a criminal defense attorney might be able to represent a client's interests in court and successfully protect his or her future. For instance, by pointing out a police officer's racial bias during an investigation, the attorney might be able to get crucial evidence thrown out, causing the charges to be dropped. Alternatively, legal counsel might recommend negotiating a plea bargain. This strategy could help the defendant obtain a more lenient sentence.

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