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Study finds judges biased against black defendants

Some black defendants might be more likely to go to jail while awaiting a court hearing in Ohio or in other states compared to white defendants. This was the conclusion of a study that will appear in The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

The study examined tens of thousands of cases over a number of years in Philadelphia County and Miami-Dade County and found that on average, the bail for black defendants was more than $7,000 higher than it was for white defendants. This can be a factor in who stays in jail prior to a trial since some defendants may be unable to pay the bail amount. Black defendants had a 2.4 percent higher chance of staying in jail than white defendants prior to the court hearing.

Researchers found that racial basis was a factor in judges' decisions for setting bail. While there was a bias that black defendants were more likely to commit a crime, the analysis found that some white defendants were more likely than black ones to do so. Another study that was published in 2018 also found that bail judges made many errors in predicting how defendants would behave on release. The more recent study also found a higher incidence of racial bias among judges who were less experienced or who were part-time judges.

An attorney may be able to assist a person who is facing criminal charges at this stage and help the person stay out of jail until the hearing. After that, the attorney might also be able to help with other aspects of the person's defense. For example, the attorney might investigate whether the person's rights were violated when being taken into custody. If they were, a motion to dismiss might be advisable.

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