UCL in the News: Verdicts 'not affected' by racism
13 June 2007
Jurors are influenced by the race of defendants, but this does not affect final verdicts, a report has suggested.
Ministers ordered research into jury attitudes amid fears of institutional racism raised by the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. …
In a four-year study published by the Ministry of Justice, researchers say they were able to debunk a series of myths, including who was called to serve and the decisions they took.
However, they did not answer whether all-white juries also do not discriminate. …
The study found the verdicts of racially-mixed juries did not discriminate against defendants based on their race. But in certain cases, the race of the defendant did have an impact on the votes of individual jurors.
Some jurors demonstrated "same race leniency" - but personal prejudices did not affect the final verdict that would have been delivered in court.
Report author Professor Cheryl Thomas [UCL Laws] said this contrast between some individual attitudes and collective decision underlined the importance of having 12 people consider a case.
"Jury verdicts are the result of the process of group consensus and it appears the dynamics of these racially mixed juries helped to ensure that any individual jury biases were not allowed to dictate the verdicts of these juries," she said. …
"What remains to be answered is whether all-white juries, which decide a large proportion of jury cases in this country, also do not discriminate against defendants based on race."