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Virtual Trials Would Advance Justice, Professor Adam Benforado Writes in Washington Post Op-ed

Professor Adam Benforado

July 22, 2016

Virtual and pre-recorded trials have the potential to undermine biases that currently undermine the criminal justice system, Professor Adam Benforado said in an essay published by the Washington Post on July 20.

Biases regarding the race, ethnicity, age or attractiveness of a victim or defendant have been widely shown to affect judges, jurors, prosecutors, police and witnesses, producing unjust outcomes at trial, Benforado wrote, citing studies conducted by psychologists at numerous institutions.

“We can try to combat this behavior by imploring officers, prosecutors, jurors and judges to ignore their own biases,” Benforado said. “But there’s a better solution — we can prevent our legal actors from seeing at all.”

Virtual trials in which neutral avatars stand in for witnesses, victims and defendants would provide jurors solely with the information needed to determine guilt and exclude extraneous information about skin color, body shape, mannerisms and attractiveness.

“When a prosecutor doesn’t know whether a juror is black or white, male or female, he can’t discriminate,” Benforado said, noting that pre-recorded trial proceedings would prevent impermissible evidence from reaching jurors’ ears and reduce the “dead time” of bench colloquies, overruled motions and administrative delays.   

Benforado, an authority on the overlap between law and mind science, is the author of “Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice,” published in 2015 by Crown.