Study may show racial makeup of jury affects outcome

April 27, 2012
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Researchers led by Duke University examined the jury pools of two Florida counties over a 10-year period and found that all-white juries convicted black defendants nearly 16 percent more often than white defendants.

When there was at least one black member of the jury, that gap was nearly eliminated.

The researches used the two Florida counties because those counties had detailed statistical information about jury compositions available. They looked at data from 2000 to 2010 from noncapital felony criminal cases and studied the effects of age, race and gender of jury pools on conviction rates. Their article focuses on the racial aspect of juries.

Where there were no black jurors, black defendants were convicted 81 percent of the time; white defendants were convicted 66 percent of the time.

When there was at least one black juror, conviction rates for black defendants were 71 percent and 73 percent for white defendants. When blacks were in the jury pool, they were slightly more likely to be seated on a jury than whites. About 40 percent of the jury pools examined had no black members.

“The crossing pattern exhibited by our main findings thus leads to our final conclusion: that jurors of at least one race (and possibly both) either interpret evidence differently depending on the race of the defendant or use a standard of evidence that varies with the race of the defendant. Either possibility implies that the interaction of defendant and jury race fundamentally alters the mapping of evidence to conviction rates and, thus, that the impact of the racial composition of the jury pool (and seated jury) is a factor that merits much more attention and analysis to ensure the fairness of the criminal justice system,” the article states.

The study was published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and conducted in part by staff in Duke’s economics department and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Queen Mary, University of London.

You can view the study online.
 

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

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