Racial exclusion in jury selection is still common, according to a study of practices in southern states.
In courtrooms across the United States, people of color are dramatically underrepresented on juries as a result of racially biased use of peremptory strikes,” the report by the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) stated. “This phenomenon is especially prevalent in capital cases and other serious felony cases. Many communities have failed to make juries inclusive and representative of all who have a right to serve.”
The staff of the EJI looked closely at jury selection procedures in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. they uncovered shocking evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection in every state. They identified counties where prosecutors excluded nearly 80% of African Americans qualified for jury service. They discovered majority-black counties where capital defendants nonetheless were tried by all-white juries. And they found evidence that some prosecutors employed by state and local governments were actually trained to exclude people on the basis of race on how to conceal their race bias.
In many cases, people of color were not only excluded, but also denigrated and insulted with pretextual reasons intended to conceal race bias. African Americans were excluded because they appeared to have “low intelligence”; wore eyeglasses, were single, married, or separated; or were too old for jury service at age 43 or too young at age 28. They were barred for having relatives who attended historically black colleges; for the way they walk; for chewing gum; and frequently, for living in predominantly black neighborhoods.
My opinion? Batson v. Kentucky was supposed to eliminate race-based jury selection. However, it appears the specter still exists. It’s unbelievable to me ho today’s “race-neutral” explanations and the tolerance of racial bias by court officials has made jury selection for people of color a hazardous venture, where the sting of exclusion is accompanied by painful insults and injurious commentary.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.