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The effects of defendant race and SES, and defense attorney race on juror decision making: An aversive racism explanation for prejudice against Mexican Americans

Russ K. E Espinoza, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Bias in the legal decision making process has been given considerable attention over the last few decades. However, research regarding biases by juries and juror members has been inconsistent and inconclusive. The majority of this research has focused on African Americans to the exclusion of other racial groups. One under represented group that has yet to be given adequate attention is Hispanics, and more specifically, Mexican Americans. This purpose of this dissertation was to examine prejudice against Mexican American defendants in the legal system from an aversive racism perspective (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986). Two-hundred and forty-seven participants read through a trial transcript that varied defendant race (Mexican American or European American), attorney race (MA or EA), and socioeconomic status of defendant (low SES or medium SES). Dependent measures included verdict, sentencing, culpability ratings, and trait assessments of the defendant, prosecuting, and defense attorneys, as well as competency and case presentation style ratings of the attorneys. Based on aversive racism and previous research (Espinoza, Willis Esqueda, & Culhane, 2005), it was hypothesized that mock jurors will show juror bias against Mexican American defendants only when the defendants' race is coupled with another perceived negative attribute, such as SES. In addition, it was hypothesized that juror bias against Mexican American defendants would also be correlated with other established measures of prejudice (e.g. the Revised Legal Attitudes Questionnaire), and degree of contact with minority group members. Results confirmed that bias against Mexican American defendants only occurred when the Mexican American defendant was of low SES and represented by a Mexican American defense attorney. Lastly, there were significant relationships with other established measures of prejudice and degree of contact with minority group members. Future directions as well as limitations to this study are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Law|Psychology, Social|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Espinoza, Russ K. E, "The effects of defendant race and SES, and defense attorney race on juror decision making: An aversive racism explanation for prejudice against Mexican Americans" (2005). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3176778.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3176778

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