Home Law School News Harvard publishes Judge Bennett’s article on jury selection bias

Harvard publishes Judge Bennett’s article on jury selection bias

The most recent issue of Harvard Law and Policy Review includes an article by Judge Mark Bennett entitled “Unraveling the Gordian Knot of Implicit Bias in Jury Selection: The Problems of Judge- Dominated Voir Dire, the Failed Promise of Batson, and Proposed Solutions.”

Judge Bennett is a United States District Court Judge in the Northern District of Iowa in Sioux City and a 1975 graduate of Drake University Law School.

The article is available on the journal site.

The first two paragraphs help give an overview of the article’s focus on subconscious or implicit biases:

At a 1993 meeting of his organization Operation PUSH, on the topic of street crime, the Reverend Jesse Jackson told the audience, “‘There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery . . . . Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.’” Jackson’s observation reflects an unfortunate but often held belief, one that even a famous and deeply committed national civil rights leader cannot escape: a white stranger is probably less threatening than a black stranger. Such a reaction is an example of implicit bias.

Implicit biases are the plethora of fears, feelings, perceptions, and stereotypes that lie deep within our subconscious, without our conscious permission or acknowledgement. Indeed, social scientists are convinced that we are, for the most part, unaware of them. As a result, we unconsciously act on such biases even though we may consciously abhor them.