Why Juries Have a Hard Time Convicting Cops

From: Cincinnati Enquirer

By: Mark Curnutte

Jurors bring their beliefs and life experiences into the courtroom.

Though many jurors try to remain neutral, their deeply held biases can affect the life-and-death decisions they are charged to make, say legal and brain science experts. The issue has come to the forefront in recent years when a white police officer has stood trial for killing an African-American.

In the avalanche of reaction last week to the announcement that former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing would not be tried a third time, his attorney provided the most convincing piece of evidence that implicit bias played a central role in the two mistrials.

Stew Mathews said it appeared both juries were racially divided. The five African-American jurors — two in the first trial and three in the second — all voted to convict Tensing on both murder and voluntary manslaughter, he said. Only one of the nine white jurors in the second trial voted for a murder conviction, and two wanted a manslaughter conviction.

Tensing, who is white, was charged for shooting and killing unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose during a July 2015 traffic stop.

In announcing his decision to drop charges against Tensing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said his polling of jurors convinced him “that we will never get a conviction. … So many things bled into the jury room related to race.”

One of those things is implicit bias — the attitudes or stereotypes that scientists say affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner.

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