Race salience in defense attorney opening and closing statements: The effects of ambiguity and juror attitudes

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Bucolo, Donald
Psychology; Social; Language; Rhetoric and Composition; Sociology; Ethnic and Racial Studies
thesis / dissertation description
Two studies were conducted to evaluate if making a defendant's race salient in defense attorneys' opening and closing statements would reduce White juror racial bias towards a Black defendant when evidence against the defendant was strong (Study 1) or weak (Study 2). In Study 1, making race salient did reduce guilty verdicts against the Black defendant. In addition, more racist jurors were more likely to find the Black defendant guilty only when race was not made salient. In Study 2, making a defendant's race salient did not affect White jurors verdicts. Further, in Study 2 participants with more positive views towards Blacks and who were more motivated to not appear prejudiced were more likely to find the defendant guilty regardless of the defendant's race. These results suggested that attitudes were better predictors of juror verdicts when the case against the defendant was weak rather than strong.