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Tips for reducing bias during a criminal trial

Having a conversation about race before, during and after a trial could help defendants in Wisconsin and throughout the country. There are many steps that attorneys may take to help jurors acknowledge their own biases and how they may influence how they evaluate a case. Attorneys are also encouraged to learn more about implicit bias and how it could influence their willingness to defend certain types of clients over others.

Before the trial starts, it may be possible to call to a judge's attention the role that race could have played in a case. For instance, the officer who took the defendant into custody may have a track record of treating minorities differently than white individuals. Expert witnesses may be used to further explain the idea that an officer may be predisposed to treating minorities differently during traffic stops or searches.

Attorneys can ask jurors to examine their own feelings about race during opening and closing statements. The goal is to convince those deciding a person's fate not to use stereotypes of other subjective criteria during deliberations. It may also be a good idea to make an effort to portray a defendant as a quality person who is simply trying to be a productive member of the community.

Defendants who are convicted of a criminal charge may face a variety of penalties such as jail time or probation. They could also be sentenced to community service, a fine or other penalties allowed by law. An attorney may strive to cast doubt on evidence used at trial such as lab tests, witness testimony or a police report. Legal counsel may also assert that an illegal act was committed in self-defense or by a defendant who is unable to understand the difference between right and wrong.

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