Race, dialect, and the courtroom

Listen 49:00
Stenographers take rapid-fire dictation at twice the speed of speedy typists, deciphering regional accents and paying ardent attention to the most arcane talk. (AP Photo/Haraz Ghanbari)

Stenographers take rapid-fire dictation at twice the speed of speedy typists, deciphering regional accents and paying ardent attention to the most arcane talk. (AP Photo/Haraz Ghanbari)

Guests: Taylor Jones, Cassie Owens, Kami Chavis

Philadelphia court reporters often make errors when transcribing the testimony of African Americans, according to a new study. While stenographers are supposed to be 95% accurate in their transcriptions of what an individual says, new research looking at Philadelphia courtrooms found a large percentage of mistakes when it came to what African Americans said while they were on the stand.  This hour we’ll talk about the serious implications this study raises about fairness and racial bias in the criminal justice system with one of the study’s authors, University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate linguist TAYLOR JONES, and with Philadelphia Inquirer reporter CASSIE OWENS, and KAMI CHAVIS, professor of law and director of the criminal justice program at Wake Forest University School of Law.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.