Racial bias in legal decision making has been given considerable attention over the past few decades, focusing mainly on African Americans to the exclusion of other minority groups. The purpose of this study was to address the dearth of research examining bias against Mexican American defendants. Two hundred forty-seven participants read through a trial transcript that varied defendant race/ethnicity (Mexican American or European American), defense attorney race/ethnicity (Mexican American or European American), and defendant socioeconomic status (SES; low or high [upper middle class]). Dependent measures included verdict, sentencing, culpability ratings, and trait assessments. Bias against Mexican American defendants occurred most when the Mexican American defendant was of low SES and represented by a Mexican American defense attorney. In addition, attorneys representing low-SES Mexican American defendants were perceived as less competent and rated lower on a number of trait measures. Limitations, applications, and future directions are discussed.
- defendant and attorney characteristics
- juror decision making
- socioeconomic status
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science