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Attorney empowerment in Voir Dire and the racial composition of juries

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  • Lehmann, Jee-Yeon
  • Smith, Jeremy

Abstract

Giving attorneys more power in the voir dire (jury selection) process may allow them to 1) find grounds for dismissal of jurors whom they wish to strike on a priori grounds; 2) acquire information that enables them to identify favorably-inclined jurors more precisely; or both. Attorneys who are more skilled can better use such increased power to retain the jurors they prefer. We show theoretically that, because defense attorneys prefer non-white jurors a priori, the interaction of empowerment and defense attorney skill should produce juries with a greater proportion of non-whites if only the first mechanism is operative, but need not have this effect if the second is operative. We then examine these issues using a detailed dataset on all non-capital felony trials in four large and diverse counties over a two-year period. We find that skilled and empowered attorneys can indeed stack juries by retaining jurors predisposed to their side at a greater rate, and that the distribution of relative attorney skill in our data is such that defendants benefit on average. However, we find that empowerment has a small and insignificant impact on the racial composition of the seated jury, regardless of attorney skill.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 36338.

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Date of creation: 16 Nov 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:36338

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Keywords: Discrimination; Voir Dire; Jury; Attorney Empowerment; Race;

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  1. Neilson, William S. & Winter, Harold, 2000. "Bias and the economics of jury selection," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 223-250, June.
  2. Moses Shayo & Asaf Zussman, 2011. "Judicial Ingroup Bias in the Shadow of Terrorism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1447-1484.
  3. Lehmann, Jee-Yeon, 2011. "Job assignment and promotion under statistical discrimination: evidence from the early careers of lawyers," MPRA Paper 33466, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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