Black? On trial in Florida? You don’t want an all-white jury!
Yes, you saw that right. Some new research mirrors the findings of research conducted three decades ago!
If you were a black criminal defendant in Florida between 2000 and 2010, with an all white jury you were convicted 81% of the time. On the other hand, if you were a white criminal defendant with an all white jury, you were only convicted 66% of the time. If, however, there were African Americans (even just one) on your jury–the difference in conviction rates between black and white defendants almost disappeared.
Justice is not intended to be a random event and one of the researchers speaks to that in a story on the research.
“The findings imply that the application of criminal justice is “highly uneven,” Bayer said, because conviction rates vary substantially with random variation in the racial composition of the jury pool.
“Simply put, the luck of the draw on the racial composition of the jury pool has a lot to do with whether someone is convicted and that raises obvious concerns about the fairness of our criminal justice system,” Bayer said.”
There are clearly issues that need to be addressed and it likely is not only in Florida. While there are ways to reduce these sorts of verdict discrepancies by raising jurors’ awareness of the need to behave in a non-biased fashion, it is disturbing that the difference between conviction of white and black defendants is demolished by having a single juror of color.
If you are a defense attorney, this is likely a good article as evidence that, even in 2012, your African American client is less likely to get a fair trial with an all-white jury.
Anwar, S., Bayer, P., & Hjalmarsson, R. (2012). The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 127 (2), 1017-1055 DOI: 10.1093/qje/qjs014