The influence of mitigation evidence, ethnicity, and SES on death penalty decisions by European American and latino venire persons

Russ K.E. Espinoza, Cynthia Willis-Esqueda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of the research was to determine whether European American and Latino mock jurors would demonstrate bias in death penalty decision making when mitigation evidence and defendant ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES) were varied. A total of 561 actual venire persons acted as mock jurors and read a trial transcript that varied a defendant's case information (mitigating circumstances: strong/weak, defendant ethnicity: European American/Latino, and defendant SES: low/high). European American jurors recommended the death penalty significantly more often for the low SES Latino defendant when strength of mitigation evidence was weak. In addition, they also assigned this defendant higher culpability ratings and lower ratings on positive personality trait measures compared with all other conditions. Strong mitigation evidence contributed to lower guilt ratings by European American jurors for the high SES European American defendant. Latino jurors did not differ in their death penalty sentencing across defendant mitigation, ethnicity, or SES conditions. Discussion of in-group favoritism and out-group derogation, as well as suggestions for procedures to diminish juror bias in death penalty cases, is provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-299
Number of pages12
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

Keywords

  • Death penalty
  • Juror decisions
  • Mitigating circumstances
  • Race bias
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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