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ASTC Implicit Bias Research Project

This study examines 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 ASTC Foundation is funding the research project. Phase 1 has already been completed, and Phase 2 is underway. The research group will present the current status of the research at the Annual Conference.

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