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Paper offers suggestions for reducing implicit bias

Attorneys and judges in Virginia might be able to reduce the likelihood that jurors will return verdicts based on implicit racial bias by discussing the phenomenon openly. This was one of the conclusions of a paper written by an Arizona assistant federal public defender that appeared in the "Seattle Journal for Social Justice."

The paper suggested a number of different approaches, including that of an Iowa judge who meets with potential jurors before they are questioned by attorneys to give a PowerPoint presentation on implicit racial bias. Before jury selection even begins, attorneys may seek to have some evidence dismissed if racial bias was an issue with the officer or witnesses. Experts witnesses may also be able to testify about the unreliability of cross-racial identifications.

During jury selection, attorneys may ask jurors to relate a personal story about race. They could also require jurors to take the Implicit Association Test. Some attorneys include an instruction to the jury to set aside stereotypes and prejudice when reaching a verdict. Others may seek to build a narrative that paints the defendant as an individual. Such phrases as "a loving father" may do this. The paper also urges attorneys to be mindful of any implicit bias within themselves and says they should make sure they are prioritizing cases using objective criteria.

People who are facing theft charges, drug charges, assault charges or any other felony or misdemeanor charges may want to discuss the best strategy with an attorney. The attorney may look at whether implicit bias played a role in when the individual was taken into custody and whether the person's rights were observed throughout the investigation. It might be possible to raise issues about the reliability of witnesses or whether forensic evidence was gathered and analyzed correctly.

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