Peers and Peremptory Challenges

Race and the Criminal Justice System: How Race Affects Jury Trials, Gerald A. Reynolds, ed. (Washington, DC: The Center for Equal Opportunity, 1996).


An introductory paper notes that throughout most of American history a white-dominated justice system, including juries, has discriminated against black defendants, but today blacks are not only represented in the justice system, they also are in the majority in police forces and juries in some jurisdictions. Consequently, this has introduced a new dimension to jury decisionmaking, i.e., the potential racial bias of black jurors, who may be skeptical of evidence presented by white police and white prosecutors. The first paper cites anecdotal cases in which minority jurors have either “hung” a jury or acquitted a minority defendant in the face of significant evidence of guilt. Another paper traces the history of apparently racially based jury verdicts in America, showing how racially based verdicts by white juries have shifted to racially based verdicts and jury deliberations by minority jurors, as evidenced in the O.J. Simpson trial. Another paper argues that jury decisions are based less on juror characteristics of race than their characteristics of education and economic status. Other papers consider racial quotas and the jury and what constitutes a fair cross-section of the community for a jury. The concluding paper provides data analysis that suggests blacks are more likely than whites to be acquitted in jury trials for most felony crimes, contrary to conventional wisdom.

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