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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 17 No 1 (2000) Criminal Justice in Diverse Communities

The Surprising Liability and Fundamental Assets of Diverse Juries

Robert J Boeckmann

Legal folklore and research evidence suggest that juries may treat a member of their own social group with leniency. In contrast, an offender perceived as an outsider may be judged harshly. This pattern of judgment is hardly surprising and suggests that minority representation on juries may aid in counteracting bias toward minority defendants. However, this chapter reviews theory and empirical research, which suggests that under certain circumstances, minorities may judge a member of their group more harshly. This evidence counters the conventional wisdom of ensuring minority representation on jury trials with minority defendants. However, this chapter also reviews empirical evidence, which clearly suggests the quality of jury decision-making and the legitimacy of the justice system are enhanced by diverse juries. Implications for jury trials in diverse societies are discussed.

(1999) 17(1) Law in Context 113
Keywords: Juries

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