How Systemic Racism and Implicit Racial Bias Affect Innocence Case Outcomes


What is systemic racism?

Systemic racism shows up in our lives across institutions and society. It includes the wealth gap, employment, housing discrimination, incarceration, drug arrests, immigration arrests, and infant mortality.

There is no obvious sign of America’s broken criminal justice system than that of the contrasting impact on people of color.

Criminalizing Race

Racially disparate system and its devastating consequences

  • African Americans are about six times likely to be incarcerated compared to their white counterparts.
  • The role of the criminal justice professional.
  • From time to time citizens who harbor racist attitudes make it onto juries where they are asked to judge those they hold in disdain.

Implicit racial bias

As humans we unconsciously have attitudes or stereotypes about race that help us understand the world around us. Our decisions in life are based on this understanding and we act upon them often unaware of our attitudes. This reflex response is known as Implicit Racial Bias (IRB).

IRB affects us all regardless of where our racial biases stand or our associations with members of other races.


IRB and stereotypes skew prosecutorial decisions in racially biased ways. This affects their discretion with charges, pretrial, trial, and post-trial strategies.


IRB works in three ways:

  • Who the police choose to monitor
  • How the police interpret the behavior of those they scrutinize
  • How they react to their conclusions


  • Research shows that when jurors are asked to recall facts, they are inclined to misremember information in racially biased ways.


  • They are also prone to “stereotype consistent memory errors” that has an impact on how they set bail, rule on pretrial motions and trial objections, assess guilt, determining instruction during jury trials, and appropriate sentencing.