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Archive for the ‘Voir Dire & Jury Selection’ Category

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. dang ky nhan tien cuoc mien phi


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We have blogged a few times here on the ways conservatives and liberals differ — in fact, for a while it seemed there was new research coming out about differences between those two groups routinely. But now we have another one—narcissism apparently shows up in different ways depending on whether you are liberal or conservative.?

The researchers were looking at the relationship between social narcissism and political behaviors and values. They surveyed 750 American adults (a nationally representative sample) between October 26 and November 1, 2016. They used the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (a measure commonly used in social sciences research) and found that, overall, levels of narcissism were about the same between liberals and conservatives. But when they looked at specific aspects of narcissism—there were differences between the two groups.?

Liberals were more exhibitionistic and conservatives were more entitled.?

For example, conservatives were more likely to agree with statements like, “I insist upon getting the respect that is due to me”.

Liberals were more likely to agree with statements like, “I get upset when people don’t notice how I look when I go out in public”.?

The researchers believe this finding means that “activation of one’s sense of entitlement appears to be related to moving an individual to the right. On the other hand, activation of one’s need to display their values is related to left leaning political positions”. However, they also say that the larger takeaway is that narcissism is part of all of us.?

It is tempting to view labels (liberal, conservative, narcissist, et cetera) as entities, as if the label means the same thing to two different conservatives, or that narcissism only takes a single form. But the research points out the fallacy of that view. As a psychologist, narcissism is an interesting concept to me. It takes healthy and unhealthy forms, it can be provoked during times of stress, and it can be less visible at other times. But everyone likes to have their ego gently stroked, if done properly. And that is playing to narcissism.

What this study suggests is that if you want to appeal to the narcissism of conservative jurors, include language that discusses issues around what justice demands in recognition for work and fairness.

With liberals, they want to be admired and to be seen as admirable, so they want to be credited with striving to make the world better and want recognition for their efforts.

This is a nuanced distinction, but the focus on looking past the label and considering how it will mean different things to different people is very worthwhile.

Peter K. Hatemi Zoltán Fazekas (2018). Narcissism and Political Orientations. American Journal of Political Science,


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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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Pew Research Center continually puts out well-researched and well-written reports on data generated by their surveys of the American public. They have a newer report out on how generational status is related to views of racial discrimination. Pew comments on the report this way:?

“Generational differences have long been a factor in U.S. politics. These divisions are now as wide as they have been in decades, with the potential to shape politics well into the future.

From immigration and race to foreign policy and the scope of government, two younger generations, Millennials and Gen Xers, stand apart from the two older cohorts, Baby Boomers and Silents. And on many issues, Millennials continue to have a distinct – and increasingly liberal – outlook.”

Reading these reports regularly is a good way to maintain awareness of shifting attitudes of your potential jurors. Pew thinks that, if Millennials and GenXers vote, they will influence politics “well into the future”. For some of us, this report will be reassuring and for others it will not.?

The report itself is full of information on the many issues American generations disagree on with younger Americans more supportive of immigration, more liberal, less religiously affiliated, more likely to be Democrat by self-report, more likely to prefer “bigger” government, more supportive of universal healthcare, and more supportive of social services for the needy. Yet, they are no more likely to be trusting of the government than other generations.?

If you choose juries, appear in court for trials, or need to keep up on changing norms—this report is a must-read piece.?

The Generation Gap in American Politics: Wide and growing divides in views of racial discrimination. Pew Research. March 1, 2018. ?

Image from report itself

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