Psychology Expert Witness Testifies On Racial Stereotypes

Sam Sommers, a Tufts University assistant professor of psychology, testified yesterday as an expert witness on whether juror racism tainted Christopher McCowen’s first-degree murder conviction in 2006. A predominantly white jury found McCowen, who is black, guilty of the 2002 murder of Christa Worthington. Also convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated burglary, McCowan was sentenced to state prison for life without parole. The psychology expert witness testified on how racial stereotypes can affect jury deliberations. Mary Ann Bragg of Cape Cod Times also reports:

“Stereotypes are very pervasive in our society at large,” Sommers said on the witness stand in the small, over-heated courtroom. One common stereotype is the association of black men with violent tendencies, Sommers said. And even for jurors who believe they’re fair-minded, that type of stereotype can be triggered when a trial is “racially charged” by factors including media publicity and remarks in testimony, he said.