Dateline: July, 2008, Issue 3

When are juries more lenient toward African-American than White defendants?

Juries convict African-American defendants more often than White defendants for many crimes. Instances exist, however, when African-American defendants are treated less harshly by juries than White defendants.

Poulson (1990) found that African-American defendants were acquitted more often than White defendants when pleading not guilty by reason of insanity (regardless of the race of the victim).

African-American defendants are also judged less harshly than White defendants for crimes jurors typically associate with White defendants, such as embezzlement or white collar crime (Gordon, 1990; Gordon et al., 1988; Rickman, 1989).

Source Poulson, R. L. (1990). Mock juror attribution of criminal responsibility: Effects of race and the guilty but mentally ill (GBMI) verdict option. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, pp. 1596-1611.

Source Gordon, R. A. (1990). Attributions for blue-collar and white-collar crime: The effects of subject and defendant race on simulated juror decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, pp. 971-983.

Source Gordon, R. A., Bindrim, T. A., McNicholas, M. L., & Walden, T. L. (1988). Perceptions of blue-collar and white-collar crime: The effect of defendant race on simulated juror decisions. Journal of Social Psychology, 128, pp. 191-197.

Source Rickman, L. E. (1989). Juror and defendant characteristics, "crime-stereotype," and jurors' guilty verdicts. Dissertation Abstracts International, 50(6-B), pp. 2672.