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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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