Dateline: November, 2007, Issue 6

Are jurors more persuaded by attorneys of their own or another race?

While the issue of race in the courtroom often focuses on jurors and defendants, this issue also extends to attorneys.

Boliver (1999) examined how the race of jurors and attorneys influences verdicts in a child abuse/neglect case. White and African-American jurors heard closing arguments from either a White or African-American attorney. Jurors were also assessed for how "authoritarian" they were. Authoritarian jurors are people who give allegiance to those in authority, and condemn those who question and deviate from conventional norms. Authoritarian jurors are people who believe that power and control are acceptable, expect obedience from those not in authority, and believe in physical punishment. By contrast, non-authoritarian jurors are people who are willing to question authority, and believe people with lesser power have the right to question authority.

Jurors' race and authoritarianism influenced verdicts. Authoritarian White jurors found the defendant guilty more often than non-authoritarian jurors or African-American jurors.

Both attorneys' and jurors' race affected verdicts, though only for authoritarian jurors. The verdicts of authoritarian White jurors were most influenced by White attorneys. The verdicts of authoritarian African-American jurors were most influenced by African-American attorneys. By contrast, non-authoritarian jurors of both races were equally persuaded by White and African-American attorneys.

For authoritarian jurors, attorneys of the same race are most persuasive.

Source Boliver, S. E. (1999). The effects of attorney race and use of racially relevant arguments on juror decision-making. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 60, p. 1911.