Kevin Lewis

July 15, 2021

Same As It Ever Was? The Impact of Racial Resentment on White Juror Decision-Making
Douglas Rice, Jesse Rhodes & Tatishe Nteta
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


While a rich literature has developed around race and juror decision-making, little is known about the underlying reasoning and psychology informing these decisions. In this paper, we argue juror decision-making and reasoning in cases featuring an African American defendant are moderated by a juror's level of racial resentment. We present a survey experiment which subtly manipulates the race of the defendant and ask respondents to assess the guilt of the defendant and explain the reasoning for their decision. We find that racially resentful jurors exposed to a vignette featuring an African American defendant are more likely to see the defendant as guilty and to employ distinctive explanations for assessing their guilt. Additionally, we find whites with low levels of racial resentment exposed to an African American defendant are significantly less likely to view the defendant as guilty and also employ substantively different reasoning in relation to their decision.

Body-Worn Cameras and Adjudication of Citizen Complaints of Police Misconduct
Suat Çubukçu et al.
NBER Working Paper, July 2021


Police body-worn cameras (BWCs) have been the subject of much research on how the technology's enhanced documentation of police/citizen interactions impact police behavior. Less attention has been paid to how BWC recordings affect the adjudication of citizen complaints against the police. We employ citizen complaint data from the Chicago Police Department and Civilian Office of Police Accountability filed between 2012-2020 to determine the extent to which BWC footage enhances the efficacy of evidence used to formulate a conclusion of responsibility, and whether bias against complainants based on race would subsequently be reduced. Accordingly, we exploit the staggered deployment of BWCs across 22 Chicago police districts over time to estimate the effect of BWCs on these outcomes. Our findings indicate that BWCs led to a significant decrease in the dismissal of investigations due to insufficient evidence ("not sustained") as well as a significant increase in disciplinary actions against police officers ("sustained" outcomes) with sufficient evidence to sanction their misconduct. We further find that disparities in complaints across racial groups for the "unsustained" category fade away with the implementation of BWCs.

Use of vascular neck restraints in law enforcement: A case-study of Spokane, WA
Matthew Hickman et al.
Police Practice and Research, forthcoming


The high-profile deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd have led to legislative actions banning the use of neck restraints by law enforcement officers. The debates behind these policy changes are important, but they are also entirely lacking in any data on the actual use of neck restraints. We write neither to defend nor condemn the use of neck restraints by law enforcement; rather, we seek to provide information to assist with data-driven decision-making about the technique. We present data from a police department in Washington State where, prior to the May 2021 statewide ban on use of neck restraints, officers had used them quite regularly: 230 times over the previous eight years. Results indicate that neck restraints were typically used when dealing with subjects who were physically non-compliant or actively resisting police, were associated with use of other physical tactics (rather than weapons), yielded a lower rate of injury to subjects but a higher rate of injury to officers, and resulted in no subject fatalities.

The Causal Effect of Heat on Violence: Social Implications of Unmitigated Heat Among the Incarcerated
Anita Mukherjee & Nicholas Sanders
NBER Working Paper, July 2021


Correctional facilities commonly lack climate control, producing a setting absent endogenous responses to hot weather like avoidance, adjustment, and mitigation. We study daily weather variation across the state of Mississippi, and show that high temperatures increase intense violence among the incarcerated. Days with unsafe heat index levels shift both the intensive and extensive margins of violence, raising daily violent interactions by 20%, and the probability of any violence by 18%. Our setting cleanly identifies the effect of heat on violence, and highlights previously unobserved social costs of current facility infrastructure. Rising global temperatures could substantially increase violence absent adjustment.

Trial by Tabloid: Can Implicit Bias Education Reduce Pretrial Publicity Bias?
Angela Jones et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming


The Western District of Washington recently developed an educational video to reduce jurors' implicit biases. Little is known regarding the effectiveness of this proposed remedy to address a range of implicit biases. This study tested whether this educational video reduces pretrial publicity (PTP) bias. A total of 330 undergraduate participants were randomly assigned to read PTP or unrelated articles. An average of 9 days later, they were randomly assigned to watch the educational video prior to viewing a murder trial. Those exposed to PTP were more likely to convict and found the defendant more culpable and less credible. The educational video did not reduce PTP bias. A more tailored debiasing strategy may be needed to overcome the biasing effects of PTP. Differences in legal decisions also emerged depending on whether participants completed the second phase in-person or online, which has implications for future data collection modes.

County-Level Context and Sentence Lengths for Black, Latinx, and White Individuals Sentenced to Prison: A Multi-Level Assessment
Katherine Durante
Criminal Justice Policy Review, forthcoming


This article examines the relationship between race, ethnicity, county-level contextual variables, and sentence lengths for Black, Latinx, and White individuals sentenced to prison. Hierarchical linear modeling is used to examine the focal concerns perspective, the racial/ethnic threat thesis, socioeconomic inequality across racial/ethnic groups, political climate, and individual-level factors and sentence lengths. Data come from the National Corrections Reporting Program and other sources to examine sentences for over 500,000 individuals admitted to U.S. prisons between 2015 and 2017, from 751 counties. Results indicate that Black and Latinx individuals receive longer sentences than their White counterparts, even after controlling for relevant variables. The racial/ethnic threat thesis is not supported. Black individuals are sentenced longer than their White counterparts in counties with larger shares of Republican voters. Findings indicate that race and ethnicity continue to be salient predictors of punishment, with Black and Latinx individuals facing harsher outcomes than their White counterparts.

The Impact of Legal Team Size on Third Party Perceptions
Gilles Grolleau, Murat Mungan & Naoufel Mzoughi
George Mason University Working Paper, May 2021


We examine whether the number of lawyers representing a defendant impacts third parties' moral judgments and recommended punishments for similar offenses. Specifically, we use an experimental survey with a between-subjects design to examine third parties' perceptions regarding the seriousness of fraud and tax evasion offenses and the punishments they deem appropriate for these offenses. Our benchmark analysis suggests that subjects' perceived severity and seriousness of both offenses are significantly increasing in the number of lawyers representing the defendant. These results could be driven both by a direct impact of legal representation on third parties' perceptions and preferences for punishment, or by third parties updating their beliefs regarding the seriousness of these offenses based on the defendant's legal expenditures. To investigate whether the latter mechanism may be driving results, we conduct a second experimental survey wherein subjects are informed that the number of lawyers has been randomly determined. This causes the significant relationship between the perceived seriousness of the offense and the number of lawyers to vanish. However, for fraud offenses, increasing the number of lawyers from one to more lawyers increases third parties' recommended sanctions, which is consistent with a psychological phenomenon of 'luck envy'.

Mt. Everest -- we are going to lose many: A survey of fingerprint examiners' attitudes towards probabilistic reporting
Henry Swofford, Simon Cole & Valerie King
Law, Probability and Risk, September-December 2020, Pages 255-291


Over the past decade, with increasing scientific scrutiny on forensic reporting practices, there have been several efforts to introduce statistical thinking and probabilistic reasoning into forensic practice. These efforts have been met with mixed reactions-a common one being scepticism, or downright hostility, towards this objective. For probabilistic reasoning to be adopted in forensic practice, more than statistical knowledge will be necessary. Social scientific knowledge will be critical to effectively understand the sources of concern and barriers to implementation. This study reports the findings of a survey of forensic fingerprint examiners about reporting practices across the discipline and practitioners' attitudes and characterizations of probabilistic reporting. Overall, despite its adoption by a small number of practitioners, community-wide adoption of probabilistic reporting in the friction ridge discipline faces challenges. We found that almost no respondents currently report probabilistically. Perhaps more surprisingly, most respondents who claimed to report probabilistically, in fact, do not. Furthermore, we found that two-thirds of respondents perceive probabilistic reporting as 'inappropriate'-their most common concern being that defence attorneys would take advantage of uncertainty or that probabilistic reports would mislead, or be misunderstood by, other criminal justice system actors. If probabilistic reporting is to be adopted, much work is still needed to better educate practitioners on the importance and utility of probabilistic reasoning in order to facilitate a path towards improved reporting practices.

Surveilling Surveillance: Estimating the Prevalence of Surveillance Cameras with Street View Data
Hao Sheng, Keniel Yao & Sharad Goel
Stanford Working Paper, May 2021


The use of video surveillance in public spaces -- both by government agencies and by private citizens -- has attracted considerable attention in recent years, particularly in light of rapid advances in face-recognition technology. But it has been difficult to systematically measure the prevalence and placement of cameras, hampering efforts to assess the implications of surveillance on privacy and public safety. Here we present a novel approach for estimating the spatial distribution of surveillance cameras: applying computer vision algorithms to large-scale street view image data. Specifically, we build a camera detection model and apply it to 1.6 million street view images sampled from 10 large U.S. cities and 6 other major cities around the world, with positive model detections verified by human experts. After adjusting for the estimated recall of our model, and accounting for the spatial coverage of our sampled images, we are able to estimate the density of surveillance cameras visible from the road. Across the 16 cities we consider, the estimated number of surveillance cameras per linear kilometer ranges from 0.1 (in Seattle) to 0.9 (in Seoul). In a detailed analysis of the 10 U.S. cities, we find that cameras are concentrated in commercial, industrial, and mixed zones, and in neighborhoods with higher shares of non-white residents -- a pattern that persists even after adjusting for land use. These results help inform ongoing discussions on the use of surveillance technology, including its potential disparate impacts on communities of color.

Use of Risk Assessments in Pretrial Supervision Decision-Making and Associated Outcomes
Evan Lowder & Chelsea Foudray
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming


Despite the growing use of both pretrial risk assessment and supervision as pretrial reform strategies, there has been limited investigation on the effectiveness of risk assessment-informed pretrial supervision. We conducted a multi-site, retrospective investigation in 1,505 pretrial defendants from four local jurisdictions to examine risk assessment-informed pretrial supervision decisions and associated pretrial misconduct outcomes. Our findings showed pretrial supervision decisions were generally consistent with structured guidelines and defendant risk classifications. Use of bond and electronic monitoring had little impact on pretrial misconduct. However, more frequent pretrial monitoring was associated with higher rates of pretrial misconduct across all risk levels. Reducing supervision conditions and monitoring for low-risk defendants, in particular, may help reduce rates of misconduct in pretrial populations.

Dissecting bankruptcy frictions
Winston Wei Dou et al.
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


How efficient is corporate bankruptcy in the United States? Two frictions, asymmetric information and conflicts of interest among creditors, can cause several inefficiencies: excess liquidation, excess continuation, and excess delay. We find large bankruptcy inefficiencies, mainly due to excess delay. Eliminating information asymmetries would increase average total payouts by 4%, and eliminating conflicts of interest would increase them by 18% more. Without these frictions, 14% more cases would be resolved pre-court, and court cases would be 73% shorter. With less delay, bankruptcy's indirect costs would be much lower. In contrast, inefficiencies from excess liquidation and excess continuation are quite small.


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