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Court Video Forces Jurors To Confront ‘Unconscious Bias’ So They Don’t Just Trust Cops

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Two courts in the State of Washington have developed a novel method to try and root out trustworthy feelings associated with police officer.

That method is showing potential jurors a video called “Unconscious Bias.” It’s being utilized by two federal courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington’s website explains:

“The video and jury instructions…were created by a committee of judges and attorneys…[to] be presented to jurors with the intent of highlighting and combating the problems presented by unconscious bias.”

Shown during the voir dire process of jury selection, the 11-minute-long video asks jurors to consider their own hidden biases, prejudices and preconceived notions in order to effectively deliver justice.

Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) initiated the production of the video because he noticed a tendency for jurors to “trust police officers implicitly.” Robinson said:

“If you’re a white person and the only time you see a police officer is when he helps you with a flat tire or responds when someone steals your stereo, you have one view of the police…Why would trusting the police make you more fair in a criminal case?”

So far, the video has received a generally warm reception from judges and attorneys. Its use is optional–at the discretion of the presiding judge on any given case.

The video has more or less become part of the jury selection routine at the two courthouses, and was only recently barred for the first time–in a trial over the death of Leonard Thomas, a black man killed by a police SWAT team at his home. The presiding judge in the case, Barbara Rothstein, said that showing the video to potential jurors would be “simply too prejudicial.”

[image via Shutterstock/video courtesy Western Washington District Court]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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