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Retired Md. judge: ‘I was biased against my own people’

Although their role in the judicial process requires objectivity, judges aren’t immune to implicit biases — the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that shape the way we perceive the world and those we interact with — according to a retired Prince George’s County Circuit Court administrative judge.

After studying his own sentencing patterns, Judge William D. Missouri, who is black, said he found he “was biased against my own people,” the Marshall Project reports.

Research has increasingly shown connections between implicit bias and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, according to the article, which cites a study that bail amounts assigned to black defendants in Connecticut were 25 percent higher than those of white defendants accused of similar crimes, as well as one that found black defendants in federal court received sentences that were 12 percent longer.

Even public defenders’ implicit bias could contribute to racial disparities, Phoebe Haddon, the chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden and former dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, told the Marshall Project.

“[Bias] might manifest in whether the defender believes in the guilt or innocence of the person they’re representing,” Haddon said. “Or their assessment of their fellow counsel, the credibility of witnesses, whether to take a plea bargain.”

Haddon and the American Bar Association are working to create videos that will encourage judges and defenders, as well as prosecutors, to discuss bias, the article reports.

“Being accused of bias is like a knife slicing your skin; the cut may be shallow, but the hurt is deep,” Missouri said.

About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.

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