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Unconscious bias a problem in courts

Members of minority groups in Connecticut who are charged with crimes may have to contend with unconscious bias in the court system. As a recent case in Boston shows, even judges may have unconscious biases that affect their decisions.

According to the American Bar Association, the judge was in charge of handling cases in which counter-protesters were arrested and charged with crimes after they protested against a far-right straight pride parade. The counter-protesters supported the LGBTQ community.

At their arraignments, the district attorney moved to dismiss the charges against the people who did not have any criminal records, but the judge denied her efforts. The defense attorney for one of the defendants then attempted to read into the court record a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that ruled that judges could not prevent prosecutors from dismissing cases because of prosecutorial discretion. The judge told her to be silent, but she persisted in making a record. The judge then had the attorney arrested and thrown in jail. She was released a few hours later. The case illustrates that the judge's unconscious bias may have been at play.

Unconscious bias can be a real problem for minorities who are charged with crimes. People may encounter bias starting at the time of their arrests from police officers. Minorities are much more likely to be arrested and charged with crimes. They are also more likely to be convicted and to receive harsher sentences than non-minorities. People who are the victims of unconscious bias in the criminal justice system might want to get help from experienced criminal defense lawyers. The attorneys may aggressively advocate on behalf of their clients in court and during negotiations with prosecutors.

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