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This research investigated whether the prejudicial attitudes of mock jurors in Canada produce criminal sanction disparities similar to those reported by research in the United States. In order to investigate this hypothesis, English Canadian participants read a transcript of a sexual assault trial that varied the ethnic background of both the victim and the defendant (i.e., English, French or Native Canadian). Participants were then asked to rate the guilt of the defendant in two ways: (1) on a 7-point bipolar scale in accordance with their personal beliefs (i.e., Subjective Guilt Rating), and (2) on a dichotomous scale (guilty/not guilty) in accor- dance with judicial instructions (i.e., Legal Standard Guilt Rating). Participants were also asked to rate the victim and defendant on a number of personality traits. Results indicate that participants asked to rate the degree of guilt of the defendant according to the Subjective Guilt Rating found him more guilty if he was French, or Native Canadian as opposed to English Canadian. These prejudicial ratings, however, dissipated when participants were asked to rate the guilt of the defendant according to the Legal Standard Guilt Rating that included jury instructions. This apparent paradox in results is discussed in terms of modern racism theory.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2003.31.3.301

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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