Note

Social Dominance Orientation: Detecting Racial Bias in Prospective Jurors

Social Dominance Orientation: Detecting Racial Bias in Prospective Jurors

Briana M. Clark

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The selection of an impartial jury is fundamental to the fair and equitable administration of justice. Though the criminal justice system purports to be “racially blind,” research shows that racially biased jurors negatively impact the lives of people of color, especially Black people, involved with the criminal justice system.  Due to the detrimental effect that juror bias has on communities of color, litigators must accurately detect and remove biased jurors.

This Note proposes social dominance orientation as a new mechanism to detect and remove biased jurors in racially charged cases. Although research about social dominance orientation has been overlooked by legal scholars, social science research demonstrates that social dominance orientation is correlated with anti-Black racism, racially biased perceptions of evidence and guilt, and racially biased sentencing recommendations. Importantly, social dominance orientation can even predict how a juror is likely to behave in racially charged cases. Due to social dominance orientation’s predictive value, and the inadequacy of other alternatives, this Note argues that lawyers should incorporate questions aimed to determine the social dominance orientation of prospective jurors in the voir dire and juror questionnaires of racially charged cases. Lawyers can then use this information to detect and remove racially biased jurors and, most importantly, help ensure defendants’ constitutional right to an impartial jury.

Yale Law School, J.D. 2020

Cite this article:

Briana M. Clark

, Note, 

Social Dominance Orientation: Detecting Racial Bias in Prospective Jurors

, 39 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 614 (2021).