Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Ashley B. Batastini

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Eric Dahlien

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Don Sacco

Committee Member 3 School



Numerous examples show how consideration of extra-legal factors, like defendant race, in legal decision-making are contributing to the overrepresentation of minorities in the legal system. Because triers of fact may be less familiar with risk assessment results presented by expert witnesses, there is a need to examine how legal decision-making is being affected by race in this context. This study aimed to examine whether individuals are in fact relying on race as a factor above empirically supported expert opinions of actual violence risk predictions. The sample consisted of 280 participants recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. To test the primary hypothesis in this study, a MANCOVA was conducted. When accounting for explicit racism, there were no overall significant effects when examining the relationship between exposure to a hypothetical defendant’s race and percent likelihood of future violence, desired social distance, and severity of punishment. There was, however, some evidence to suggest that individuals with higher reported racial biases were more likely to rank the defendant, regardless of identified race, as high risk. Further, noteworthy limitations and future directions for research are discussed. In particular, concerns about external validity, impression management, and sample demographics are emphasized.