ASTC Implicit Bias Research Project

This study will examine the effects of a video produced by the United States District Court in the Western District of Washington, which is shown to potential jurors prior to trial. The video, entitled “Understanding the Effects of Unconscious Bias” (the “Video,” which we received permission from the Court to use), purports to educate and minimize implicit bias in juror decision-making. It seems that once potential jurors receive this educational intervention, unconscious bias becomes a factor that attorneys need to weigh during voir dire, in moving for a challenge for cause, and in exercising peremptory challenges. Questions as to how the Video might (a) affect jurors attitudes [positively or negatively] towards parties, (b) affect jurors’ own attitudes toward bias, and/or (c) contribute to varying trial outcomes is yet to be studied. The answers to all of these questions may alter jurists’ approaches to voir dire and challenges. Specifically, answering the foregoing questions will 1) provide insight into how potential jurors and attorneys perceive the Video, 2) determine the validity and utility of the Video itself, and 3) assist jurists in designing voir dire strategies for prospective jurors who observe the Video prior to jury selection. Additionally, this research would be a first step in addressing whether the Video (and/or similar juror education on implicit bias) impacts the efficacy and efficiency of cause challenges, such that peremptory challenges would be preserved.

The study will be conducted in three phases. Phase 1 will collect jury-eligible participants’ opinions of and reactions to the Video in order to understand how jurors will perceive the Video. Phase 1 will also guide the focus of the experimental design in Phase 2. Phase 2 will examine the impact of the Video on mock jurors’ verdicts. Phase 3 will gather attorneys’ opinions about the Video.

The ASTC Foundation has agreed to fund the research project and Phase 1 planning is underway. The research group will present the current status of the research at the June 2019 Annual Conference.

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