Minimal Diversity Aids to Jury Pools– Seeking Fairness

In an article in Missouri Lawyers Weekly, a study conducted by Duke University was of interest to me. As a trial lawyer, I am always hungry for research, statistics, and new findings about jury pools and selection. Duke University found “Juries formed from all-white jury pools convicted black defendants 16% more than white defendants, but this gap is nearly eliminated when the jury pool has at least one African-American on it.”……. This is not surprising to me. The study discussed peremptory challenges used by attorneys.

The data in this study suggests that the existence of one African-American on the jury has a tremendous result on the jury decision in criminal cases. According to this Duke study, they also indicated, “The disparities between the outcomes for whites and African-Americans isn’t just that all-white juries are more likely to convict black defendants, but that they’re also more likely to acquit white defendants than racially diverse juries are.”

According to this data, if you are a white defendant in a criminal case, you definitely want an all-white jury.

I would be interested to see research on jury selection as it relates to personal injury cases. Personal injury cases arise from auto accidents, semi-truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, wrongful deaths, etc. It would seem smart to use this information found in the study for jury selection for criminals and share the parallels to personal injury case juries. As the study indicated, researchers have a difficult time getting access to information about potential jurors. According to Patrick Bayer, Chairman of Duke’s economics department, “One of the things that our study points to is the need for more transparency and more access to data . If we’re going to take the promise seriously in the Sixth Amendment to guarantee a right to an impartial jury, we need more data on how the racial composition of jury pools is affecting outcomes “.

As a trial lawyer, the benefit of a diverse jury is something I have learned from experience. From the cases I have tried, having a variety of people in the jury box was beneficial for my client. A collection of more diverse people have a larger variety of perspectives and a greater wealth of experiences. Jury members are an organization, and organizations are only as smart as their “collective learning and experiences.”

Why wouldn’t we want our jury to be diverse and have the wisdom of collective experiences? Jury members are part of a team that forms the jury. In the jury selection process, I always seek to have a racially diverse jury. I feel that a variety of races and social classes make for a better, more objective group. Groups are as powerful as their wealth of experiences, and juries are by nature a group. In fact, a jury has to gather information, assimilate the information and make a group decision in a short amount of time. While teams in sports and business get practices to lead up to making big decisions or games, jury members frequently have mere days. Is this a fair system? I believe so.

One of my tenants or beliefs about people is that by nature, people are good . We want the best for ourselves and others. Obviously, there are exceptions since we are talking about human beings, but by and large, I believe most people believe in fairness. Notice I did not say we all believe in “justice.” What is justice? I have been to law school, practice law every day, and try cases, but I cannot give you a good definition of “justice.” I can, however, explain “fair.” My 4-year-old little girl understands “fair.” When I try a case, we always talk about “fairness.” When I hear “justice,” I think of a lynch mob in old westerns coming for the outlaw in the town jail to hang them before a trial. Then I see Clint Eastwood or some other hero (Atticus Finch for those familiar with To Kill A Mockingbird) who saves the wrongly accused person from a hanging.

Our legal system involving a jury is still a very powerful thing, and I believe in the work of juries….. A good thing since it’s what I do!

I would very much like to see more research done on the impact of having different kinds of minority groups represented on a jury in personal injury cases.

I would invite you to comment on my blog, including questions! Please hit the “comment” button below or share your comments on our Facebook page.

If you have been seriously injured in an accident possibly involving the negligence of another, you should contact a personal injury attorney to find out all of your options. Following a serious accident, a thorough investigation needs to occur. At The Cagle Law Firm, we have access to expert investigators and reports. We use that information as power for our clients. Call (314) 276-1681 for a free consultation with Zane T. Cagle.

“Study: All-White Jury Pool Convict Black Defendants 16 Percent More Often Than Whites” Duke Today, Hartsoe, S. 4/17/2012.

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