The Potentially Biasing Effects of Voir Dire in Juvenile Waiver Cases

Greathouse, S. M., Sothmann, F. C., Levett, L. M., & Kovera, M. B. (2011). The potentially biasing effects of voir dire in juvenile waiver cases. Law and Human Behavior, 35, 427-439. DOI 10.1007/s10979-010-9247-z

An analysis of transcripts from cases in which a juvenile is adjudicated in adult criminal court showed that potential jurors may be questioned about their attitudes toward juvenile waiver during voir dire. If jurors express concerns about trying juveniles in adult criminal court, they are excused from the jury for cause (Danielsen et al., Paper presented at the meetings of the American Psychology-Law Society, 2004). We conducted a series of three studies to examine whether questions about juvenile adjudication practices and juvenile offenders during voir dire influenced jurors’ pretrial and post-trial judgments of defendant guilt. Jurors who viewed a juvenile qualification voir dire provided higher pretrial probabilities of defendant guilt than did jurors who watched a standard voir dire that did not contain juvenile qualification questions. However, this pretrial guilt bias as a function of voir dire type did not persist after the presentation of trial evidence. Jurors who viewed a juvenile qualification voir dire and jurors who viewed a standard voir dire did not differ in their post-trial judgments of defendant guilt. Implications for the abilities of juvenile defendants to receive a fair trial in adult court are discussed.