Hidden Racial Bias: Why We Need to Talk with Jurors about Ferguson

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Issues of race frame our national identity and define our capacity to achieve true equality for all individuals. By its very nature and traditions, the law is a profession tasked with confronting inequality and discrimination in our society. As issues of race continue to influence our communities, nation, and world, the legal profession will be charged with leading future discussions on how prejudice and bias affect our clients. Unfortunately, as legal professionals, we still struggle with the question of whether to talk about race in voir dire. This essay discusses our obligation as judges, academics, and practitioners to understand how unconscious racial bias exists in the hidden belief systems of many, if not all, jurors. These actors must also recognize that open dialogue in jury selection is a proven strategy against the effects of individual undetected prejudice. Furthermore, attorneys must concede hidden bias in themselves before fully comprehending the devastating impacts of racial biases.

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Northwestern University Law Review Online