The Art of Prejudice: Examining the Minority Effect Inside the Courtroom

“As American society has matured, blatant forms of racism have increasingly been replaced by newer, more elusive, but equally injurious forms of derision.” Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence states in part that “evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice…or misleading the jury…” When inside of a courtroom, parties to a case become the minority to a controlled majority, known as the jury, who hold people’s fate in their hands. People’s names are often tarnished by the attacks of their character on irrelevant matters, which may be targeted based on their ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and even legal citizenship. Also, dangers of unfair prejudice can arise if evidence demonstrates immoral character or unpopular associations that could arouse juror antagonism, overemphasizes negative connotations and incites a jury’s vindictiveness, invites unwarranted conclusions generating a risk of fact-finding mistake, or unreasonably appeals to a jury’s emotions or prejudices.