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Pew Research has a new post up comparing the religious beliefs of Black men to those of Black women (as well as White and Hispanic men and women). We’ve written here about the roles of religion and race (and who you want on your jury when) a number of different times here. Most recently, we blogged on the religious practices of Black Americans when compared to White Americans.?

Over time, Pew has developed a scale that considers four topics (i.e., frequency of prayer, belief in God, attendance at religious services, and the importance of religion in one’s life) to assess levels of religious belief and practice as “high”, “medium”, or “low”. Scores on this scale were used to draw conclusions on the religiosity of Black men compared to other groups in the US.?

Pew’s findings may not surprise you but it is good to have data behind what we might guess at so we are more certain of our accuracy. Here is a brief summary of what the Pew report says and what you may wish to take into consideration as you consider jury selection.?

In the US, Pew tells us, men are generally less religious than women and this holds true in the Black community as well.?

Black men are less religious than Black women.?

However, Black men are more religious than White men and they are more religious than White women.?

Black men are also more religious than Hispanic men and roughly equivalent to Hispanic women.?

From a litigation advocacy perspective, if you have a sense that religious commitment would play a role in case support (or lack thereof), this Pew report can give you a good guess on which jurors (Black or White or Hispanic, and Male or Female) would be best for your case. We cannot ‘know’ who is going to be best by just looking at demographic characteristics, but when all else is equal, and religious affiliation (or lack thereof) may make a difference, this is a data based approach to making the best decisions possible.?


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A new study by economists tells us it depends on whether you yourself are male or female. To examine the question of whether own-gender juries (i.e., jurors who are the same gender as you, the defendant) vary in conviction rates, the researchers looked at “detailed administrative data on the juror selection process and trial proceedings for two large counties [Palm Beach and Hillsborough Counties] in Florida”.?

The researchers report their data included “all felony and misdemeanor trials over a two-year period, and contain detailed information on defendant characteristics as well as case characteristics”. The information gathered also included demographic information on the jurors and so the researchers were able to calculate “the expected proportion of women on each jury” based on the variations each panel reflected in terms of gender. Some of you know that Florida seats both 6 person and 12 person juries, and the researchers took that into consideration.?

Here is what they found:

Own-gender juries result in “significantly lower conviction rates on drug charges” although not on other charges [like “driving, property, or violent crime offenses”].?

Even as small an amount as 10% above the expected gender-match on your jury results in an 18% reduction in conviction on drug charges.?

Own-gender juries also reflect differences in sentencing decisions with own-gender juries issuing lower sentences. In the case of sentencing, a 10% point change in expected gender composition of the jury will result in a 13% reduction in “the likelihood of being sentenced to at least some jail time”. These shorter sentence differences remain even when juries only issue a guilty or not guilty verdict and a judge determines the sentence!?

It is important to note that because they were attempting to identify the effect of own-gender juries, the researchers “excluded cases linked to charges in which fewer than 10% of the defendants were female. The researchers explain their reasoning for excluding certain types of cases this way:?

“Consequently, we only consider cases that involve a drug, driving, property, or violent crime. In addition, we limit violent crimes to domestic crimes assaults, and robberies. This is due to the low number of female defendants in other violent crime categories, such as sexual assault and murder, which gives us very little variation in defendant gender.”?

The researchers believe that randomly drawing a higher proportion of female jurors for a male defendant can result in unfair and “significant long-run costs”. They cite literature on variations in sentencing by gender of juror, as well as the literature on fairness in conviction and sentencing based on factors other than evidence presented at trial. In addition, they mention the literature on the presence of “one black juror” making a difference in conviction rates.?

Another intriguing aspect to this study is the researchers report that over 58% of their sample was charged with “possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia without intent to distribute”. The researchers suggest that when jurors who do not agree with sentencing rules for non-violent drug offenses (which, they point out, is a significant portion of Americans), they may engage in jury nullification and find the defendant not guilty.?

Specifically, they say it this way: “jurors fairly enforce the laws with which they mostly agree, but disproportionately favor own-group defendants when deciding whether to enforce laws with which they might not agree”.?

From a litigation advocacy perspective, if you are representing defendants accused of non-violent drug offenses, all other things being equal you should consider a same-gender jury. If, on the other hand, you are prosecuting, you will want other-gender jurors to achieve your goals.?

Hoekstra, M & Street, B. 2018. The effect of own-gender juries on conviction rates. National Bureau of Economic Research.


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Okay, we admit to some level of fascination with who murders who and what happens at trial here. Usually you will find it in posts about how bias enters the courtroom. But this week, a couple of strange stories came up that made us stop and recall those older posts. If you are wondering who might murder you, you may want to stop looking for men with tattoos on their faces, ax murderers, psychopaths, and strangers on the train—and start looking at your spouse and coworkers. You just can’t trust anyone anymore.?

How to Murder Your Husband

Here’s a good hint. If your romance novelist spouse writes an essay called “How to murder your husband”—you might want to consider separation or divorce and a new identity. Earlier this month, Nancy Crampton-Brophy was arrested for allegedly murdering her chef husband (by gunshot) at his place of work. It seems Ms. Crampton-Brophy thought she could get away with this crime but she appears to have been wrong.?

Don’t just look at your spouse—how about those co-workers??

You may think you are safe at work (unless there is some random shooter wandering through the office) but this may not be accurate.? As it happens, homicide is the third-most-prevalent cause of workplace death (“falls to a lower level” is #1, and “roadway collisions with other vehicles” is #2). And if you think workplace fatalities will most impact those in blue-collar careers—you would be wrong again.?

Thanks to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we know much more than any of us wanted to know. While most workplace murderers use a gun, there is also “stabbing, cutting, slashing, piercing” aimed at objects of (we presume former) affection or those who just don’t appreciate the murdering co-worker enough.?

But there is also something called “red-collar crime”—a phrase coined by certified fraud examiners and that is what happens when a boss kills his or her assistant to keep a fraud scheme rolling along or when a whistle-blower suffers a fatal accident. Some think this red collar crime is much more prevalent than we are aware and that they are the result of narcissists and psychopaths in the office. The Atlantic did a piece on this phenomenon recently and concluded this way:?

How many office psychopaths turn violent is less clear: The FBI doesn’t track red-collar crime, nor does OSHA. Richard G. Brody, another CFE and an accounting professor at the University of New Mexico, sometimes trawls the web for murder trials involving white-collar defendants, and has become convinced that red-collar crime is more prevalent than most people suspect.?

Detectives don’t always spot such homicides, he told me, so crime scenes may be contaminated and murders may pass for suicide. “Whenever I read about high-profile executives who are found dead, I immediately think red-collar crime,” he said. “Lots of people are getting away with murder.”

You may also want to check where you currently reside to see if you might be at risk

The Washington Post wrote an article earlier this summer titled “Where Killings Go Unsolved”. Here’s part of their article that you really do not want to read when you are alone after dark:?

The Washington Post has identified the places in dozens of American cities where murder is common but arrests are rare. These pockets of impunity were identified by obtaining and analyzing up to a decade of homicide arrest data from 50 of the nation’s largest cities. The analysis of 52,000 criminal homicides goes beyond what is known nationally about the unsolved cases, revealing block by block where police fail to catch killers.?

Or you may not want to read it at all. You probably are in no danger.?


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A new survey has come out that is the first to show us what cisgender kids think of their transgender peers.?

First a reminder of what cisgender is: it is simply the term used to describe someone who identifies with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.?

What do cisgender kids think about their transgender peers?

The survey was published in the Journal of Cognition and Development and explored “5- to 10-year-old children’s (N=113) preferences for transgender versus gender-“typical” peers who either shared their gender identity or did not”. The authors describe their results this way:?

“Children preferred cisgender peers over transgender peers; however, they also liked peers of their own gender rather than the other gender (e.g., female participants preferred girls over boys), demonstrating that the oft-documented own-gender bias plays an important role even when children are reasoning about transgender peers.”

A second interesting finding is that cisgender children who tended to categorize transgender children by their natal sex (that is, the gender assigned at birth) tended to like those children less. This finding mirrors the findings found in studies with adults and tells us children learn even subtle attitudes from adults around them.?

How many transgender kids are out there anyway?

An article recently uploaded in JAMA Pediatrics journal, tells us that about 1% of 9 or 10-year-old children self-identify as gay, bisexual, or transgender. And this was neither a small nor short-term study. The researchers used a two-year subset [2016-2017] of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study dataset which was collected over a 10 year period at multiple locations.?

A particularly unique aspect of this data set was that parents were also questioned on the sexual identity of their children. Nearly 7% of the parents thought their child might be gay and 1.2% said their child might be transgender.?

This is an unusually young age to have data from both children and their parents on sexual identity. The researchers are hoping they will learn (over time, by studying these children) how to help mitigate the higher levels of physical and mental health issues experienced by current-day gender and sexual minorities.?

And a voir dire tip: “What is your best guess of how many Americans are gay or lesbian?”

While Americans have grown more accepting of homosexuality in the past few decades, there are some odd quirks in that (seemingly) increased tolerance. One of them may be useful for us to consider during voir dire (and to test out during pretrial research). As it turns out, some Americans greatly over-estimate the percentage of the population that identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. As examples, in 1977, the average guess was between 10% and 19%. By 2013, the “best guess” had increased to about 23%.?

In 2018, Gallup reported 4.5% of the population self-identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.?

Here’s what makes it really interesting:?

Those who overestimate the proportion of gay/lesbian/bisexual Americans are also more likely to hold false beliefs about homosexuality and less likely to support gay-rights policies like employment protection, child adoption, and same-sex marriage.?

And these tendencies are strengthening with the politicization of this simple question: “What is your best guess of how many Americans are gay or lesbian?”

It’s a curious thing and somewhat counter-intuitive. Attitudes are more tolerant towards homosexuality in general—except when they are not. Could this be related to attitudes positive or negative for your case? We know one way to find out before trial.?

Selin Gülg?z, Eric M. Gomez, Madeleine R. DeMeules & Kristina R. Olson (2018). Children’s Evaluation and Categorization of Transgender Children. Journal of Cognition and Development, Volume 19(4).?

Jerel P.?Calzo,?PhD, MPH1; Aaron J.?Blashill,?PhD2 (2018). Research Letter: Child Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Cohort Study. JAMA Pediatrics,

Donald P. Haider-Markel , PhD & Mark R. Joslyn , PhD (2018). Not Threat, But Threatening: Potential Causes and Consequences of Gay Innumeracy. Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 65(11).?


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As you probably know by now, we read a lot of articles for inclusion on this blog but also de-select many potentially worthy pieces because they just do not spark our imaginations. It’s time again for a collection of miscellany—articles that didn’t merit a full post but that we wanted to share because they are worthy tidbits.?

“I’m a scientist and I changed my mind about an earlier publication”

This is a controversy we have blogged about before (a number of times). Dana Carney did research with Amy Cuddy on power poses but later changed her mind as to whether the conclusions of the work were “real”. There was much argument in the academic community with some supporting Carney and others supporting Cuddy. But now—instead of bickering—here’s a real solution for scientists who have “changed their minds”.?

We are currently watching the work of the new site “Undark” ( Their tagline is “come into the undark” and they have just started a way for scientists to submit “loss of confidence” statements mainly focused on psychology studies, and with ground rules for submissions. The project is creatively named the Loss of Confidence Project. The author needs to take responsibility for the issues (since this is for publication and not for whistle-blowing), and the collective results will ultimately be published in an academic paper. You can read more about this program and other ways academics are expressing a change of heart here.

Can screen time increase moral awareness? Apparently, yes.

Here’s some work out of the University of Texas at Austin that culminated in the development of an open access “video-based behavioral ethics curriculum” that has been adopted by educational institutions around the world (that was fast—the press release was in mid-August, 2018!). The video was based on a two-year survey of 8,600 UT Austin undergraduates. Here is how the press release described the development of the video series:?

Before being exposed to the Ethics Unwrapped videos, more than half of the students surveyed reported a lack of confidence in their ability to identify, discuss, or apply ethics concepts such as conflict of interest, conformity bias and relativism. After viewing the videos, 88 percent reported feeling either “confident” or “very confident.” And 90 percent reported that watching the videos helped them better understand ethics concepts. [snip]

“Millennials and Gen Zers spend more than 50 percent of their waking time on screens,” said Cara Biasucci, creator and program director for Ethics Unwrapped. “This program meets them where they’re at, with a video format that appeals to their emotional and moral sense as well as the thinking part of their brain.”

And here is the page for the open access (i.e., free) video series entitled Ethics Unwrapped. This is likely a good example of where your visual evidence should go to attract and retain the attention of younger jurors.? ?

How we can predict trustworthy intentions and behavior in others

Here’s a new research article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers look at what makes people more or less trustworthy (which they say is a shift from the prior literature focus on what makes us more or less trusting). The researchers completed six separate studies and here is what they found.?

If you are high in guilt-proneness, you are more trustworthy than someone low in guilt-proneness. Specifically, those high in guilt-proneness feel a higher level of interpersonal responsibility when they are trusted by others and are less likely to exploit those who have trusted them.?

The authors conclude that guilt-prone individuals are good risks for us to trust and urge further research (because they have tenure to achieve). Here is a press release summarizing the work and here is an open access link currently available for the full text of the article.?

Levine, EE Bitterly, TB Cohen, TR, Schweitzer, ME (2018). Who is trustworthy? Predicting trustworthy intentions and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(3), 468-494.?


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