Examining the prison sentences given by mock jurors of different ethnicities and whether the sentence varies depending on the ethnicity of the offenders.


Racial bias in both the criminal justice system and in lay judgements has been a prevalent finding in psychological and criminal law research. In particular, through analyzing murder cases in Georgia (USA), Baldus, Pulaski, and Woodworth (1983) found that defendants were 1.1 times more likely to receive the death penalty if they were black compared to white defendants. In a study of imprisonment rates, Jackson (1997), found through studying inmates of different races in different institutions, that the white group committed more violent offenses such as armed robbery, than the black group. Although, imprisonment was often the punishment for the black group, and probation the punishment for the white group.


The idea of there being racial discrimination in the criminal justice system in the 21st century, including during mock-juror tasks, is an uncomfortable one. With the help of mock-jurors, Young, Levinson, and Simmett (2014) researched whether the presumption of innocence instructions used in legal cases were actually resulting in racial cues that changed judgements. In the study, a judge read these instructions to the participants via a video recording. A dot-probe task was then administered. The findings suggested that there appeared to be biased attention to black faces– suggesting unfairness and racial bias in the legal system. This is an instrumental finding following on from the high-profile murder of Treyvon Martin in 2012 and the resulting acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman. It raises the possibility of there being legal and political and racism, especially when considering that the jury in the George Zimmerman trial contained no African Americans (Bobo, 2015), which could lead to unfair racial bias effect.


In regards to this, Lynch and Haney (2011) invited male mock-jurors to their study on racial bias and the “empathetic divide”. The results showed that the white male participants saw male black defendants as cold-hearted and remorseless, regardless of mitigating circumstances. However, when a male white defendant committed the same crime, they were seen as psychologically damaged or otherwise disadvantaged.

Racial stereotypes may be critical in understanding the reasons for racial bias towards crimes. In social psychology research, an attribution theory has been proposed (Heider,1958). For example, Gordon, Bindrim, McNicholas, and Waiden (1988) investigated racially stereotyped crimes and race-crime congruence typical of race. They found that out of both white and black defendants who committed the black-stereotyped crime of burglary, those of black ethnicity received a longer sentence. However, white defendants that committed the white-stereotyped crime of embezzlement were given a longer sentence than black defendants. Gordon et al. (1988) proposed that there are dispositional attributions based on what is regarded as typical for that person’s identity.

These stereotypes are often portrayed through the media and can result in unconscious prejudice and sway people’s perceptions of black criminality. For example, in studies of news in America, black men are seen as more threatening than white men that commit the same or similar crimes (Entman & Rojeki, 2001). The media in NYC also exaggerate the proportion of crime committed by black people by 24% (Color of Change, 2015). Similarly, Dorfman’s content analysis of criminal justice databases found that white people are underrepresented as violent offenders on news programmes (as cited in Marsh & Melville, 2014).

As research has found that an offenders race is a contributing factor of sentencing lengths of people of colour – specifically black males, the aim of this study is to explore how perceived race of the offender (black or white) may determine mock-jurors’ prison sentence judgement. Also, being studied is whether the mock-jurors’ own race (black or white) influences the sentence given to offenders. As the previous literature is largely from American sources, this study will focus on UK opinions.

There are three hypotheses:

  • HA1 The suggested sentence given by the mock-juror will differ between those in the black mock-juror condition and those in the white mock-juror condition.
  • HA2 The suggested sentence given to the offender will be longer for those in the black offender condition.
  • HA3  The suggested sentence will vary depending on the ethnicity of the mock-juror and the ethnicity of the offender.


You also need to explain/justify any decisions that you made during the planning of the experiment (e.g. why you used that particular sample size or stimulus etc.

Design:A two-waybetween-subjects Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was utilised for this study. There were two independent variables, the race of the mock-juror (participant) and the race of the offender. Both of these variables had two levels each (a 2×2 ANOVA), black and white. The suggested sentencefor the offender was the dependant variable of this study. The independent variables and the dependant variable were used to measure main effects and interaction effect.

Participants:A power analysis (appendix 1) showed that for a large effect of 0.8 18 participants would be needed for each condition. However, due to time constrains only 15 participants per condition were obtained, 60 participants overall.As per recruitment requirementsall participants identified as black or white,22 were male, 48 were female and they ranged in age from18-73 (M = 28.75, SD = 12. 53) (appendix 2). Participants took part in the study somewhat unwittingly – prior to the debrief sheet they did not know that the ethnicity of the criminal was involved in the purpose of the study. They were only given names in which they could make assumptions from, and possibly give them racial cues. The participants were volunteers of theresearcher’s friends and family circle and residents of Stoke-On-Trent, some were requited by opportunity sampling around the Staffordshire University campus. Participants were from a variety of different educational and occupational backgrounds. They were recruited by first asking them if they were available for the study and then a paper copy of the scenario question was handed to them to complete as mock-jurors.


Materials:Prior to the study, participants were required to sign a consent form (appendix 3), detailing instructions and requirements. The consent form clarified that sentences given to criminals were being studied, explained what they were required to do and were then asked for consent to the study. Emphasis was placed on their right to withdraw, they were also assured that the responses would be confidential, there was no attrition rate. They signed, dated and included their age and gender for the purposes of the study. Participants were provided with a questionnaire depending on their assigned condition. One questionnaire includedthe “Jake” scenario(appendix 4) and the other the “Taralle”scenario (appendix 5), to see if the perceived race of the offender influenced their suggested sentences. The scenarios detailed an attempted robbery, whilst in possession of a gun. Participants were required tochoose a sentence using a Likert scale with the minimum of 5 years, to the maximum term of 15 years for armed robbery. A debrief sheet(appendix 6) was then given to the participants to retain, disclosed was the purpose of the study in full, with reiteration that their responses would be kept anonymous and that the scenario wasfictional.

Procedure:First, the consent for was read thoroughly, all participants consented to the study and signed in acceptance. They were then allocated to one of four conditions, based on their ethnic identity; 15white participants were given the Jake scenario, 15 black participants were also given the Taralle scenario. A further 15 white participants were given the Taralle scenario and finally, 15 black participants were given the Taralle scenario. Participants were asked to read the assigned scenario and then to suggest a prison sentence between 5-15 years for the offender. The study took approximately 5 minutes and the participants were handed a debrief sheet once they had completed.


The race of mock-jurors may influence the prison sentence given to offenders, however that effect may differ depending on the race of the offender.A two-way between subject’s analysis of variance tested whether prison sentences of offenders of different races (black or white) would be different if the mock-jurors suggesting the sentence were also of differing races (black of white). The two independent variables were the races of the mock-juror and offender, each variable had the two levels of black and white. The suggested sentence for the offender was the dependant variable of this study.The 2×2 ANOVA revealed.

Outliers, normal dis, hom of var

2 outliers – black part and black offender and white part and black offender. White part and white offender Shapiro-Wilk test of normality is sig at .007.


Main effects not sig, interaction is sig. Interaction of mock-juror race and offender race to prison sentence given was significant


N2 (effect size ) at the end ofg stat statistical justification.


Table 1: Descriptive Statistics showing the Mean level of Prison Sentence given.


Question (item) number     Mean                       Standard Deviation





The section should contain the following elements (in this order)

  • Screening Assumption Checks (and if necessary any details of appropriate transformations)
  • Descriptive data (a table, error bar or both) followed by your interpretation of it (are the means similar, are the SD’s different…etc)
  • Full details of the inferential test (e.g. ANOVA) that was conducted
  • The result of the test, including the effect size, and a conclusion
    • If the result was significant you should then include the results of follow-up tests (including their effect sizes)
    • If the result was non-significant you should include a retrospective power analysis

You should not include any raw data or SPSS outputs in this section (Tables and Graphs should be formatted appropriately and given titles – not just pasted in) – they should be individually labelled in the appendices, along with any calculations (e.g. effect sizes).


Participants occupation were not recorded, more than double the number of women to men…. No account for why the offense was committed – purposeful judgement of intentionality, or offender criminal history/previous offenses – age of offender (confounding variables) – mitigating evidence…crime steroertypes.Could also include a muslim man, opinions post 9/11?– socioeconomic status/economic survival. Country it was committed in, illness? is there an nhs? Hispanics/Mexicans sig of race in other ethnic groups/identities, Ecological validility – not in courtroom setting – does opinion reflect real jurors. Peoples opionions in London may differ, as there is higher gang crime. Blaxck juoro identiy more with black defendant and visa versa?Other variables such as gender man have played a role in their opinions. Same of differing racial group/category.Strength of juoros race/ethnic identity – strengeth of potential bias. Hegemonic masculinity

This should begin with a statement of your findings, and how they relate to your hypothesis(es), and then relate back to the research you presented in the introduction – how do your findings compare?  You should then discuss any limitations to your study, and suggest future improvements. Also discuss any implications of your findings, and any future research questions that are suggested by your findings. This section should also be in the region of 500 words.





Baldus, D. C., Pulaski, C., & Woodworth, G. (1983). Comparative review of death sentences: An empirical study of the Georgia experience. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-)74(3), 661-753.

Bobo, L. (2015). Deadly Injustice: Trayvon Martin, Race, and the Criminal Justice System (Johnson D., Warren P., & Farrell A., Eds.). NYU Press

Brewer, T. W. (2004). Race and jurors’ receptivity to mitigation in capital cases: The effect of jurors’, defendants’, and victims’ race in combination. Law and Human Behavior, 28(5), 529-545

Color of Change. (2015). Not to be trusted. Dangerous levels of inaccuracy in TV crime reporting in NYC. Retrieved from https://www.colorofchange.org/newsaccuracyratings/

Entman, R. M., & Rojecki, A. (2001). The black image in the white mind: Media and race in America (2nd Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gordon, R. A., Bindrim, T. A., McNicholas, M. L., & Waiden, T. L. (1988). Perceptions of blue-collar and white-collar crime: The effect of defendant race on simulated juror decisions. Journal of Social Psychology, 128, 191-197.

Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley.

Jackson, K. (1997). Differences in the Background and Criminal Justice Characteristics of Young Black, White, and Hispanic Male Federal Prison Inmates. Journal of Black Studies, 27(4), 494-509.

Lynch, M., & Haney, C. (2011). Mapping the Racial Bias of the White Male Capital Juror: Jury Composition and the “Empathic Divide”. Law & Society Review, 45(1), 69-101.

Marsh, I. & Melville, G. (2014).Crime, Justice and the Media (2nd Ed.). London: Routledge

Young, D. M., Levinson, J. D., & Sinnett, S. (2014). Innocent until primed: Mock jurors’ racially biased response to the presumption of innocence. PloS One, 9(3), e92365. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092365











You must provide the SPSS output for all of the statistical analyses conducted (e.g. ANOVA, t-tests, histograms, etc). Failure to produce the outputs will result in you failing the report.





Report Word Count (2000 words):[INSERT YOUR WORD COUNT HERE]





Appendix 1 – Power table


Appendix 2 – Mean and Standard Deviation of Age.


Descriptive Statistics
N Mean Std. Deviation
Age 60 28.7333 12.52911
Valid N (listwise) 60




Appendix 3 – Consent form.


In this study, we are examining the sentences given to offenders who commit armed robbery.

In this study you will be required to read a short scenario describing a crime which has been committed. You will then be required to choose a sentence which you believe fits the crime described in the scenario.

Before you start the experiment, we have to ask you whether you consent to taking part in it. You should know that your participation is voluntary, and you have the right to withdraw your consent or discontinue participation at any time without penalty, or without having to give any reason. You have the right to withdraw your results at any time and refuse to answer particular questions.

Any data collected will be anonymous and kept strictly confidential.

I give my informed consent to participate in this study. I have read and understand the consent form.

By putting your signature below, you agree that you meet the following conditions:

  • you are over 18 years old.
  • you have read the above consent form, understood it and you agree to it.
  • you want to participate in the above-mentioned experiment.


Signature:     ________________


Date:               ________________


Age:                ­­________________


Gender:         _______________



Appendix 4 – Jake (the white ethnicity perpetrator)




This case involves Jake. Jake was involved in a mid-day robbery in a jewellery shop. During the robbery, he pulled out a gun and proceeded to take the jewellery. The police arrived on time and caught Jake in the act. No one was physically harmed or injured.




How many years would you sentence Jake to jail. Where the minimum sentence for armed robbery is 5 years and the maximum is 15 years.




Please circle the sentence you would assign to Jake.


Minimum   5         6        7         8         9        10        11          12         13        14       15   Maximum


Appendix 5 – Tarrale  (the black ethnicity perpetrator)


This case involves Terrale. Terrale was involved in a mid-day robbery in a jewellery shop. During the robbery, he pulled out a gun and proceeded to take the jewellery. The police arrived on time and caught Terrale in the act. No one was physically harmed or injured.

How many years would you sentence Terrale to jail. Where the minimum sentence for armed robbery is 5 years and the maximum is 15 years.

Please circle the sentence you would assign to Terrale.

Minimum 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Maximum


Appendix 6 – Debrief Sheet

Debrief sheet for participants

In this study, you were required to read a short scenario describing a crime which has been committed. You were then required to choose a sentence which you believed best fit the crime described in the scenario.

In this study, we examined whether an individual from an ethnic minority is more likely to get a longer sentence after committing a crime than someone who isn’t from an ethnic minority. We are also examining whether the ethnicity of the person making the sentence recommendation influences the length of sentence.

Th offender and crime in the given scenario were both fictional.

Your details will be kept confidential at all times and your responses will be anonymous; identified by participant number only.

Thank you very much for taking part.











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