A Third Party’s Judgment in Same-Race and Cross-Race Crimes

  • Jungwon LeeEmail author
  • Mawia Khogali
  • Nikoleta M. Despodova
  • Steven D. Penrod


Prior studies investigating racial bias in legal decisions have involved race combinations of an observer, defendant, and victim where the observers’ race was the same as either the defendants’ or victims’ race. Because of the research designs employed in those prior studies, the effects of the three actors all being of different races have not been investigated. It is timely to investigate race effects of the three actors all being different races, given that growing racial diversity in the criminal justice system makes the race combination plausible in a trial, and that race effects observed in prior studies may not generalize to the race combination. Therefore, we examined whether observers’ punitive judgments against a defendant would differ in cross-race crimes (e.g., a white observer–black defendant–Hispanic victim) and same-race crimes (e.g., a white observer–black defendant–black victim), when the observers’ race was different from both the defendant and victim. The present research demonstrated that observers rendered more punitive judgments against the defendant in same-race (vs. cross-race) crimes, particularly when the defendant and victim knew each other. We propose that observers, whose race is different from both the defendant and victim, perceive the defendant and victim in same-race (vs. cross-race) crimes as more homogeneous out-group members. This perceived homogeneity increases punitive judgments in same-race crimes.


Racial bias Judgment in criminal cases Homogeneity of out-group 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate CenterCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyJohn Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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