Out of the Shadows: Peremptory Juror Strikes At Issue in Flowers v. Mississippi

Posted on Categories Alumni Contributor, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, Public, Race & Law, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Out of the Shadows: Peremptory Juror Strikes At Issue in Flowers v. Mississippi

The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court building with white stone columns and a white facade.On June 20, 2019, the United States Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Curtis Flowers.  The most recent appeal marks the sixth time that Mr. Flowers has been tried for charges arising from a quadruple homicide that occurred at the Tardy Furniture Store in Winona, Mississippi.  Mr. Flowers has been incarcerated for over 20 years, as he awaits trial.  Throughout this time, Mr. Flowers has consistently maintained his innocence. By way of background, Mr. Flowers is black.  Douglas Evans, the prosecuting attorney of all six trials, is white.

APM’s investigative podcast titled In the Dark conducted an in-depth analysis of the case.  The podcast explores the nature of the circumstantial evidence that the prosecution relied upon.  It scrutinizes the methodology of the investigating officers and explores alternative innocent interpretations of the evidence proffered.  But, for the purpose of the appeal, sufficiency of evidence is not at issue.  The narrator, Madeleine Baran, explains that “we’ve talked to hundreds of people who live in this part of Mississippi and it’s clear that the way people think about the Curtis Flowers case for the most part depends on whether they are white or black.”  And it is the issue of race, which is at the heart of the appeal recently decided by the United States Supreme Court. Continue reading “Out of the Shadows: Peremptory Juror Strikes At Issue in Flowers v. Mississippi”

Implicit Bias and the Gender Leadership Gap

Posted on Categories Alumni Contributor, Feminism, Labor & Employment Law, Legal Practice, Legal Profession, PublicLeave a comment» on Implicit Bias and the Gender Leadership Gap
A woman carrying buckets looks up at a ladder leading to the sky; the ladders' rungs are labeled with the various opportunities that have been historically available to women, beginning with "Slavery" at the bottom and "Presidency" at the top.
E.A. Bushnell cartoon from the New York Times, October 1920

On April 29, 2019, I moderated a panel discussion for the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Diversity Counsel Program titled “Closing the Gender Leadership Gap.”  The following statistics were shared at the program.  According to a study by the American Bar Association, “A Current Glance at Women in the Law,” half of the students graduating from law school with a J.D. are women.  Yet, only 22.7% of law firm partners are women, 22% of state court judges are women, and 26.4% of Fortune 500 general counsel positions are held by women.  A significant barrier for women in the workplace is implicit bias.  After serving on this panel, I was curious to explore how the concept of implicit bias might contribute to the gender leadership gap in the legal profession.

Implicit bias is the term that describes how the subconscious mind categorizes people.  The concept was first developed by psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald in the 1990s.  Through the use of implicit association tests (“IAT”) Banaji and Greenwald evaluated the time it took for a participant to categorize concepts such as family or career with gender.  The quicker the applicant could categorize concepts, the stronger the implicit association.  The most frightening aspect of implicit bias is that a person may be consciously opposed to gender discrimination but may unknowingly discriminate against women due to an implicit bias that exists only in the subconscious mind.

Studies suggest that implicit bias may play a role in explaining why men are systematically preferred for positions over women.  For example, a Yale study demonstrated a statistically significant preference for men in the field of science.  The study involved sending a fictional resume to 100 faculty members at top universities.  The only difference was that 50 fictional students were named John, while the other 50 fictional students were named Jennifer.  Even though the candidates had identical experience and qualifications, faculty members were more likely to find John competent and were more likely view him as a suitable candidate for lab positions. Continue reading “Implicit Bias and the Gender Leadership Gap”