Race-Based Judgments, Race-Neutral Justifications: Experimental Examination of Peremptory Use and the Batson Challenge Procedure

31 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2006

See all articles by Samuel R. Sommers

Samuel R. Sommers

Tufts University - Department of Psychology

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Abstract

The peremptory challenge remained an inviolate jury selection tool in the United States until the Supreme Court's decision in Batson v. Kentucky (1986). Batson's prohibition against race-based peremptories was based on two assumptions: 1) a prospective juror's race can bias jury selection judgments; 2) requiring attorneys to justify suspicious peremptories enables judges to determine whether a challenge is, indeed, race-neutral. The present investigation examines these assumptions through an experimental design using three participant populations: college students, advanced law students, and practicing attorneys. Results demonstrate that race does influence peremptory use, but these judgments are typically justified in race-neutral terms that effectively mask the biasing effects of race. The psychological processes underlying these tendencies are discussed, as are practical implications for the legal system.

Keywords: jury selection, peremptory challenge, racial bias, Batson challenge

Suggested Citation

Sommers, Samuel R. and Norton, Michael I., Race-Based Judgments, Race-Neutral Justifications: Experimental Examination of Peremptory Use and the Batson Challenge Procedure. Law and Human Behavior, 2007; 1st Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=922639

Samuel R. Sommers (Contact Author)

Tufts University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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