I do feel a judge’s personal viewpoints, cultural background, political ties, and religious beliefs could all have an impact on their decisions on the bench in regards to capital punishment. Take Texas for instance, it has executed more people than any other state since the 1970’s and many legal scholars have suggested one reason for this phenomenon is the judges that are in office. In Texas, judges are elected rather than appointed so their political stance and where they receive their votes from would have a direct bearing on their decisions. They would also have to reflect the views of their constituents and it has been suggested Texas judges must portray a very strong stance on punishing criminals to the fullest extent of the law because that is a part of Texans’ cultural makeup. In other words, it’s the old Southern mentality going right back to the days of the Confederacy when lynching was very popular. Even though the world has advanced, these cultural mores still run deeply. If a judge is from that area, which most certainly would be that type of bias would definitely have an impact on his or her decision in capital punishment case.
Naturally there are other kinds of bias that can influence a judge’s decision. These are often referred to as implicit biases and are composed of things such as current emotional state at the time of the decision, what kind of decision is being rendered, low effort information processing, socioeconomic factors, race and pressure to make a quick decision. Certainly there are other factors affecting bias that are not noted in this page, but in recent years, social science groups have attempted to study this issue in order to find a solution or at least to decrease this kind of bias in all types of judicial decision making. A judge would have to take a concerted effort to educate themselves on implicit bias and remain aware of that at all times. They could also have another judge sit on their case and act as a sort of facilitator to make sure they remain unbiased. Another method would be engage in diversity training to eradicate some level of any kind of racial bias.
- National Center for State Courts.“Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Implicit Bias.” (Nd). Web. Retrieved from http://www.ncsc.org/ on April 9, 2014.
- Walpin, Ned. “Why Is Texas Number #1 In Executions?”. Public Broadcasting Network. February 26, 1996. Web. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/ on April 9, 2014.