I would like to thank Mona Lynch, Kathy Zeiler, and Pete Wales for their unwavering support and tireless effort throughout this project. For their insightful input, I would also like to thank Shirley Adelstein, Josh Teitelbaum, Tom Tyler, Carroll Seron, Bill Thompson, Nancy Reichman, and both reviewers at Law & Policy.
A Field Study of the Presumptively Biased: Is There Empirical Support for Excluding Convicted Felons from Jury Service?
Article first published online: 9 DEC 2013
© 2013 The Author. Law & Policy © 2013 The University of Denver/Colorado Seminary
Law & Policy
Volume 36, Issue 1, pages 1–34, January 2014
How to Cite
Binnall, J. M. (2014), A Field Study of the Presumptively Biased: Is There Empirical Support for Excluding Convicted Felons from Jury Service?. Law & Policy, 36: 1–34. doi: 10.1111/lapo.12015
- Issue published online: 9 DEC 2013
- Article first published online: 9 DEC 2013
Vol. 36, Issue 3, 339, Article first published online: 19 JUN 2014
In the United States, a vast majority of jurisdictions statutorily exclude convicted felons from jury service. Justifying these exclusions, lawmakers and courts often cite the inherent bias rationale, which holds that convicted felons harbor a prodefense/antiprosecution pretrial bias that would jeopardize the impartiality of the jury process. The inherent bias rationale has never been the subject of empirical analysis. Instead, authorities seemingly accept the logic of the rationale unconditionally. This study (1) explores the prevalence, strength, and direction of convicted felons' pretrial biases; (2) compares the group-level pretrial biases of convicted felons, nonfelon eligible jurors, and nonfelon law students; and (3) examines if and how a felony conviction shapes pretrial biases. The results of this study indicate that a majority of convicted felons harbor a prodefense/antiprosecution bias and, in this way, differ from eligible jurors generally. Yet, the results of this study also show that many convicted felons are neutral or harbor a proprosecution pretrial bias, and that the strength and direction of convicted felons' group-level pretrial biases are similar to those of other groups of nonfelon jurors. In sum, this study suggests that while felon jury exclusion does not offend applicable constitutional standards, it is an imprecise and perhaps unnecessary practice that may come at substantial costs.