Racial Character Evidence in Police Killing Cases


By Jasmine B. Gonzales Rose

The United States is facing a twofold crisis: police killings of people of color and unaccountability for these killings in the criminal justice system. In many instances, the officers’ use of deadly force is captured on video and often appears clearly unjustified, but grand and petit juries still fail to indict and convict, leaving many baffled. This Article provides an explanation for these failures: juror reliance on “racial character evidence.” Too often, jurors consider race as evidence in criminal trials, particularly in police killing cases where the victim was a person of color. Instead of focusing on admissible evidence, jurors rely on race to determine the defendant’s innocence, the victim’s propensity for violence, and the witnesses’ credibility. This Article delineates the ways in which juror racial bias is utilized to take on evidentiary value at trial and constructs evidence law solutions to increase racial equality in the courtroom.