Race and Ethnicity in the Jury Selection Process

Race plays a direct role in jury selection and it is largely undisputed although condemned that jury discrimination has and continues to exist in the United States, favoring white juries. Juries typically oversee cases that go to trial, thus more serious crimes with defendants facing significant penal consequences. While juries are constitutionally meant to be a protection against the power and prejudice of one individual in the form of the judge, it is well-known that juries can experience prejudice and influence as well, with a large aspect of dealing with race. Historically, jurisdictions restricted racial minorities from serving in juries through various means, all of which had been struck down by courts. The issue is that primarily white juries are statistically more biased. For example, all-white juries are 81% likely to convict a black defendant and 66% likely to convict a white defendant, a large discrepancy. However, with the presence of at least one black person on the jury, the rate becomes nearly identical at 71% and 73% respectively.

While with numerous Supreme Court rulings, jury selection is meant to be objective in the modern-day, it still is not. For example, jurors are pulled from voter registrations and automobile registrations, but minorities are less likely than whites to register for these. A safeguard has been established in the form of a peremptory challenge, which during the jury selection process allows attorneys to reject jurors without cause unless the opposing party can demonstrate evidence that the juror was dismissed on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity. For serious trial cases, this does allow some control over selecting more diverse juries.

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