Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Diversity matters

A new study from Tufts University suggests that mixed-race juries in criminal trials do a more careful and thorough job of deliberating than all-white juries. But not for the reason you might think. It wasn't so much because the voices of "the other" were heard: it was because the white people changed their behavior.

Whites on diverse juries cited more case facts, made fewer mistakes in recalling facts and evidence, and pointed out missing evidence more frequently than did those on all-white juries.

Why is this? Did the whites have something to prove, or something to learn? For the study's test case involving a black defendant and a white victim, the presence of non-whites in the jury room seems to have had the effect of getting the white jurors to let go of some of their stereotypes and really look at the facts. As the report says, the implications are go way beyond the courthouse.

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