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Is Your Jury Biased Against Fat People?

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

You have enough to worry about when trying a case. You have to make sure that your arguments are in order, exhibits are ready, and that your client is prepped. But one thing you may not be able to control is jury bias against fat people.

Let's say that you represent an obese client. Whether it is a criminal or civil trial, you may be behind the eight ball even before opening arguments. At least that's what a recent Yale study found, reports Reuters.

The study performed by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity presented a pool of mock jurors with several different model defendants in a hypothetical check-fraud case. The defendants were all roughly the same with one exception -- their weight. The four sample defendants were an obese male, a skinny male, an obese female, and a skinny female.

The study found that jury members were much more likely to be biased against the obese female defendant, writes Reuters. (Actually, male jurors showed the most bias against the fat woman, while female jurors didn't seem to care about the defendant's weight.)

So what does this mean if you represent an obese female client? Should you just give up now or tell your client to go on an extreme diet?

The answer is obviously no. Besides, you should already know that jury members factor someone's appearance into their decisions. That is why you tell your client to dress up and look presentable, or even to put on non-prescription hipster eyewear.

While jury members may initially consider someone's appearance, there are many steps you can take to help them overcome this first impression. That's your job as an attorney, to craft a compelling story and argument as to why your client is not guilty. You can help coach your client on making a strong testimony and you can place your client in the best position to shine, regardless of weight.

The Yale study basically found that jury members factor appearance into their decision. This, of course, isn't groundbreaking; African-American defendants have been making this same claim for years.

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