Objective. The objective of this article is to explore whether a preference for juries rather than judges to decide legal cases varies across racial and ethnic groups. We hypothesized that minorities (African Americans, Hispanics), who generally express less trust in the legal system, may also express less trust in juries than non-Hispanic whites. Method. A representative sample of 1,465 residents of Texas were surveyed and asked whether they would prefer a jury or a judge to be the decisionmaker in four hypothetical circumstances. Analyses control for a number of possible factors that might also predict views of the jury besides race and ethnicity. Results. Consistent with expectations, non-Hispanic whites favored juries over judges, particularly if they imagined themselves as a defendant in a criminal trial. By comparison, African Americans and some Hispanics showed a weaker preference for a jury over a judge. African Americans had markedly lower support for the civil jury, but jury support was higher among minorities with prior jury service. Among Hispanics, respondents who took the survey in Spanish typically preferred a judge to make legal decisions. Conclusions. Faith in the jury as a more trustworthy decision-making body is weakest among those groups that have a history of discriminatory treatment in the legal system and who are less acculturated on other measures, such as language dominance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)