Effects of defendant ethnicity on juries’ dispositions of felony cases.

Daudistel, H. C., Hosch, H. M., Holmes, M. D., & Graves, J. B. (1999). Effects of defendant ethnicity on juries’ dispositions of felony cases. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 317-336.

This research examined jury decisions in 317 noncapital felony cases in El Paso, Texas, and assessed the impact of juror ethnicity on jury trial outcomes. Results revealed that there was no relation between defendant ethnicity and the probability of conviction. Anglo American defendants, however, received sentences that were approximately twice as severe as Hispanic defendants. Sentences imposed by juries were significantly related to defendant ethnicity and type of crime for which they were tried. Sentences were also influenced by defendant ethnicity in interaction with jury ethnic composition. Important differences appeared when there was a critical mass of 6 or more Hispanics on juries. This study, using criminal court data, provides a unique opportunity to examine the utility of social psychological theories for understanding actual trial outcomes.

Defendant ethnicity, crime type, and interaction unrelated to verdicts. Characteristics of crime were best predictors of sentence, but Anglo defendants given longer sentences than Hispanic defendants across 5 crime types. For Anglo defendants, sentence was positively correlated with number of Hispanic jurors.