Forensic experts may be biased by the side that retains them
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A new study testing internal attitudes and stereotypes among potential jurors in six death penalty states may help to explain the racial disparities that persist in the application of capital punishment. Researchers Justin Levinson (l.), Robert Smith (r.), and Danielle Young tested 445 jury-eligible individuals and found they harbored two kinds of racial bias: they maintained racial stereotypes about Blacks and Whites and made associations between the race of an individual and the value of his or her life. Those studied tended to associate Whites more with "worth" and Blacks with "worthless." The study further found that death-qualified jurors held stronger racial biases than potential jurors who would be excluded from serving in death penalty cases.
Justin D. Levinson is a Professor of Law and the Director of the Culture and Jury Project, University of Hawai`i at Manoa Law School. Robert J. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Danielle M. Young is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Rutgers University.
(J. Levinson, et al., "Devaluing Death: An Empirical Study of Implicit Racial Bias on Jury-Eligible Citizens in Six Death Penalty States," New York University Law Review (forthcoming); DPIC posted August 29, 2013). See Race. Read more studies on the death penalty. Listen to DPIC's podcast on race.
On Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2013, the ABA criminal justice section will host its annual conference, this year at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. The first event of the conference, on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 31, is a workshop for scholarly papers relating to criminal justice. The workshop will run from 1-4 p.m.
All papers on criminal law, criminal procedure, or criminal justice topics are welcome. Participants will present their work in a roundtable format, and abstracts or drafts will be shared among presenters and discussants in advance of the workshop. Workshop presenters must also attend the criminal justice panels on Friday, Nov. 1. There will be three academic panels scheduled on Friday, one prior to lunch and two in the afternoon.
This is an excellent opportunity for academics at any stage of their careers, or those who would like to transition to academia, to workshop pieces at an early stage of development or obtain feedback on more developed pieces. Workshop presenters will be responsible for their own travel and hotel costs, and will be required to pay the conference registration fee.
Rooms at the Omni Shoreham are available at the conference rate of $169/night and can be reserved at 1-800-THE-OMNI (800/843-6664) (ask for the ABA 2013 Criminal Justice Section Fall Program).
To apply to workshop a paper, please email an abstract of your paper of no more than 500 words to Will Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept. 1, 2013. Space is limited and presenters will be chosen by members of the organizing committee.
Please spread the word to those who might be interested, including those not yet in academia.
Criminal cases in the U.S. Military are conducted in special courts and under laws that differ from the rest of the country's justice system. Executions in this system are extremely rare. There have been no executions since 1961. "The military is a community of solidarity, a brotherhood and sisterhood, all to its own," said Teresa Norris, a former military defense lawyer who still represents a soldier on death row. "There is a real reluctance to execute fellow soldiers unless it's absolutely the worst kind of case and this is the only way." In 1983, a number of death sentences were commuted to life when a military appeals court found the military death penalty unconstitutional. The law was revised in 1984. One of the most significant concerns about capital punishment in the military is the decentralized nature of its judicial system. Dwight Sullivan, a former Marine prosecutor, said, "Even if you have 2 identical cases, one being prosecuted by one commander at one base and the other being prosecuted by a commander at another base, you may have different outcomes because the commanders may have different philosophies." There are currently five inmates on the military death row in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, all of whose cases are under legal review. Three are black, two are white. The trial of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, a psychiatrist charged with a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, is scheduled to begin August 6.
(C. Carter, "Military death row: More than 50 years and no executions," CNN, July 28, 2013). See U.S. Military.