STUDIES: White Jurors More Likely to Recommend Death Sentences for Latino Defendants

A new study by Professors Cynthia Willis-Esqueda (pictured) of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Russ K.E. Espinoza of California State University found that white jurors were more likely to recommend a death sentence for Latino defendants than for white defendants in California. Researchers gave case descriptions to 500 white and Latino people who had reported for jury duty in southern California, then asked them to choose a sentence of life without parole or death. The description was based on a real capital case, but each juror was given one of eight scenarios which altered the race and income level of the defendant and the amount of mitigating evidence. White jurors recommended a death sentence about half the time for Latino defendants who were poor, but only one-third of the time for poor white defendants. By comparison, Latino jurors recommended a death sentence only about one-quarter of the time, regardless of the ethnicity or socioeconomic class of the defendant.

(L. Reed, "UNL study examines racial bias in death-penalty decisions," UNL Today, September 1, 2014; R. Espinoza and C. Willis-Esqueda, "The Influence of Mitigation Evidence, Ethnicity, and SES on Death Penalty Decisions by European American and Latino Venire Persons," (paywall) Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, August 25, 2014). See Studies and Race.