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neo-naziHate group membership has increased 48% since 2000. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), this growth is spurred on by conspiracy theorists and encouraged by mainstream media. SPLC classifies active hate groups in America as Neo Nazis, Racist Skinheads, Ku Klux Klan, Black Separatists, and General Hate Groups (encompassing general hatred, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and racist music groups).

Yesterday, Reuters released information from the Simon Wiesenthal Center on how hate groups are using social networking sites (such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter) to ‘go viral’ with a 25% increase in on-line hate groups just in the past year.

It makes sense that members of hate groups would have strong biases they would bring into the deliberation room. Not all hate group members are as identifiable as we might like to believe. While you can inquire about hate group membership or try to identify attitudes in a supplemental jury questionnaire—members of these groups have reason to hide their beliefs in an attempt to influence a jury’s decisions.

We have found that examining attitudes in pre-trial research (whenever there is reason to believe that some aspect of your case will elicit hate responses/beliefs) is imperative. It is possible to find more ‘neutral’ queries that provide information on those who cannot fairly hear your case. The most important advice we can give is this: pay attention to the feelings your case elicits—are there racial, sexual orientation, ageist, or immigration reactions? If yes, pay attention not just to juror appearance, but to their attitudes, values, and non-verbal reactions in voir dire. Your case outcome depends on it.

And if you don’t check potential jurors for their online identities, you are missing some important information.  But that post will have to wait for another day…

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