This study examines how perceptions of police affect potential jurors’ decision-making.
Building on research demonstrating significant differences in how Black and White Americans view law enforcement, this study assesses how views of police shape potential jurors’ decision-making. The authors conclude that it is critical that citizens are not prevented from being seated on juries due to skepticism about police, given the risk of disproportionate exclusion of Black potential jurors. The legal processes relevant to juror excusals need to be reconsidered to ensure that views of police, rooted in actual experience or knowledge about the problems with fair and just policing, are not used to disproportionately exclude persons of color, or to seat juries overrepresented by people who blindly trust police. A sample of 649 Black and White jury-eligible U.S. citizens were exposed a federal drug conspiracy case in which the primary evidence against the defendant is provided by an FBI agent and an informant cooperating with the agent, in which a Black defendant is being tried, and where the informant-witness race (Black or White) was varied. Participants determined verdict, evaluated evidence, and completed additional measures. Results indicated that Black participants were significantly less likely to convict than White participants, especially in the White informant condition; rated the law enforcement witness as less credible; and viewed police more negatively across three composite measures. Exploratory analysis of how juror race and gender interacted indicates Black women largely drove racial differences in verdicts. Perceptions of police legitimacy mediated the relationship between juror race and verdict choice. (Published Abstract Provided)