How looks can influence courtroom bias ( )

Proud Boy John Kinsman looked drastically different during a recent courtroom appearance.

When John Kinsman of the Proud Boys, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, appeared in court for a hearing last week, he looked like an entirely different man. During a previous court appearance, on October 19, Kinsman had a scraggly beard, long hair, and wore a T-shirt and overalls. Less than a week later, he was unrecognizable in court in a suit, black-rimmed glasses, short slick hair, and a clean-shaven face.

Proud Boys member gets makeover for court appearance

— New York Post Metro (@nypmetro) October 25, 2018

The striking makeover is likely not a coincidence, but speaks to an understanding by Kinsman’s legal team that appearance is currency in the nation’s courtrooms. The likelihood of conviction and the length of a criminal sentence has been linked to how attractive, modest, or even light-skinned defendants look.

Amber Baylor, associate professor of law at the Texas A&M University School of Law, discussed earlier this year how it’s both “standard” and “good practice” for defense attorneys to spruce up their clients before a court appearance. (She also runs the law school’s criminal defense clinic.)

“It’s very common to ask your client to get a haircut if they want to, because you think it might help them in their case,” Baylor told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in March. “Tell them how they may want to sit … what direction they want to look in, whether or not they want to trim their beard.”

Looking a certain way can alter perceptions about defendants. Kinsman, for instance, belongs to an organization that the SPLC described as