Case Not Closed — Blacks Blocked from Southern Juries

June 2, 2010  |  

Racism still influences jury selection, and according to a new study by the Equal Justice Initiative, it remains largely unchecked. Discrimination against potential jurors based on race has been illegal for centuries, but the law clearly doesn’t deter its own arbiters from enforcing all-white juries in the South.The New York Times reports:

Studies have shown that racially diverse juries deliberate longer, consider a wider variety of perspectives and make fewer factual errors than all-white juries, and that predominantly black juries are less likely to impose the death penalty.

Excluding jurors based on race has been illegal since 1875, but after Reconstruction, all-white juries remained the norm in the South.

“It really made lynching and the Ku Klux Klan possible,” said Christopher Waldrep, a historian at San Francisco State University and the author of a forthcoming book about a lawyer who was able, in a rare case, to prove jury discrimination in Mississippi in 1906. “If you’d had a lot of black grand jurors investigating crimes, it would have made lynching impossible.”

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