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Subconscious bias may play a role in courtroom

In South Carolina courtrooms, judges are expected to be as unbiased as possible when making rulings and imposing sentences on those accused of crimes. Recent studies have shown that remaining unbiased in the courtroom may be more difficult than once believed.

Neuroscientists have been studying the power of subconscious behavior for years. The human brain often acts in a contrary manner to conscious beliefs, influencing outward behavior. In settings such as a courtroom where actions have far-reaching effects that may last for years, subconscious behavior plays a significant role.

One case demonstrates this bias. In late August 2019, a group of people organized a straight pride parade that was held in Boston. Protestors flocked to the event, outnumbering those who participated in the parade itself. Police presence was heavy, and more than three dozen individuals were detained. In the courtroom, one defense attorney sought to have the charges dismissed against the those who had no criminal background. Though legal precedence was on the defense lawyer's side, when she attempted to read the well-established case law, the judge demanded that she stop. When she didn't, the judge had her handcuffed, detained and placed in prison. She was released hours later. Many have criticized the judge's action, saying that subconscious bias placed a major role in his actions.

Those facing criminal charges are guaranteed certain rights in the Constitution. Among these is the right to a fair trial. It's important that judges and jury remain as unbiased as possible to give defendants a fair trial and not deny them any of their rights. If a defendant doesn't receive a fair trial, he or she may be able to appeal the ruling. If a judge may not have been acting unbiased, a lawyer might appeal the judge's decision to have the charges dropped or reduced.

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William G. Yarborough Attorney at Law
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William G. Yarborough Attorney at Law