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Sach D. Oliver
Sach D. Oliver
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Jury Bias/Discrimination

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Jury Bias/ Discrimination

It is always interesting to think about how a jury will affect the legitimate claims of your injured client. I just finished an interesting article entitled “Demographics in Civil Trials: Biases and Implications.”[1] In essence, the researchers gave 237 participants from different demographic groups a mock trial (involving a car accident) and surveyed them about how they would find if they were members of a jury charged with rendering a verdict. The demographic categories were divided by race, gender, and income. Some of the findings were interesting to say the least.

One of the trends of the study was that young (under 30 years of age) white women were not “inclined to provide any economic award to the plaintiff, and when they did, it was significantly smaller than any other demographic group.”[2] Of further note is the fact that within this respondent group and only within this group, “did more than one participant answer that the plaintiff should not even get the total value of his vehicle damages.”[3] Also, the non-white respondent groups awarded a larger total dollar value for each damage group (vehicle, medical, and business).[4]

While the researchers were reluctant to conclude “whether or not demographic factors significantly influence jurors’ judgment” the points highlighted by such a study are very interesting.[5] We would all like to think that civil trials are always based on justice, but that is simply not the case. Part of being a zealous advocate is determining the best course of action for your client. Jury considerations should always weigh heavily into this. This study seems to just highlight a few of the factors which could possibly affect outcomes for clients. I am not advocating discrimination against jurors based on any kind of demographic. However, if a juror possesses a bias that will adversely affect the claims of a client, the situation should be properly addressed in voir dire. Particular biases and predispositions are prevalent in all of society, but it is our job to inform ourselves of these and ensure that the claims of our injured clients are not undermined because of them. I encourage you to read this study and others like it.

[1]James Underwood, Denis Boudreaux, and Spuma Rao. “Demographics in Civil Trials: Biases and Implications,” available at: http://www.cluteinstitute-onlinejournals.com/PDFs/1696.pdf (Accessed March 11, 2010).

[2] Id at pg. 6.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at pg. 7.

[5] Id. at pg. 8.