if you are black, pray for a black jury

Via Colorlines, a new study from the Duke econ department. In a sample of 700 Florida non-capital felony cases, the racial composition of the jury had a big effect on conviction rates. The finding? An all-white jury convicts a black defendant 81% of the time. White defendants are convicted about 66% of the time. The results remain when you toss in control variables.When you add a single black juror, the rates more or less equalize. A mixed-race jury convicts  whites and black at about equal rates (71% vs. 73%). See our previous discussion of race and sentencing here.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 22, 2012 at 12:02 am

8 Responses

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  1. Do you think that an elephant has been in this room for 150 years?

    The jury system itself is open to challenge. Traditionally, the chief was the law-giver and you hoped for Solomon. The Greeks invented the jury system, with 500 being drawn from the Assembly. The Romans used both. (Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate.) The English jury (twelve free and lawful men) began in the 12th century – roots perhaps back to the Saxon times – to hear arguments over property. The jury was extended to criminal cases. (Trial by combat was finally abolished in 1819.) And here we are.

    With what we know from common knowledge, to say nothing of psychology and sociology, the flaws of the jury system should be obvious. The problem is to devise something better, fitted to the times, meeting our needs, not those of the Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, or Normans. (Though to be fair, as Jane Jacobs pointed out in contrast to Schumpeter, old forms are not destroyed but continue. You can be tried before a single judge, if you choose.)

    Race is one variable, obvious by inspection. What other irrelevant parameters inform juries?



    April 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  2. Isn’t this also strong evidence for affirmative action/quota system? Basically the implied message is that when there exist unbalanced group sizes, members from the majority tend to benefit (because of group selection/homiphily/innate bias in favor of members of one’s own group) simply because of the group size that they have. So even in a society free of racial/ethnic discrimination, isn’t it true that affirmative action/quota system that helps form a critical mass of minorities in the legal system/adminstrative/elite level/ is still necessary?



    April 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm

  3. If you are Asian, pray for yourself, not necessarily in the court though.


    When it comes to Asian

    April 22, 2012 at 2:23 pm

  4. What this study (and others) show is that only one Black on a jury is enough to produce equality. You don’t need a majority of Blacks, Just one is enough. Interestingly, the fact that juries with Blacks produce equality is often portrayed in the literature as “Blacks favor Blacks,” i.e. that Blacks on juries make a difference for the outcomes for Black defendants. When what the research quite clearly shows is that Whites disfavor Blacks. Also, there’s a big literature about how prosecutors believe that Blacks go easier on defendants (especially but not only Black defendants) and thus try to keep them off juries, using their peremptory challenges to do so.

    I don’t think anyone has studied Asians on juries. The White prejudice against Asians is less strong but I’d imagine that the “one Asian” rule would apply to them too, if there is a bias.



    April 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm

  5. PS notice that even Fabio’s post title says that Blacks should pray for a “Black jury” rather than an “integrated jury” or a non-lily-white jury.



    April 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm

  6. The study is even more interesting than your post suggests. The findings extended to differences in racial composition of jury pools (not just seated juries).


    Don Lange

    April 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm

  7. […] if you are black, pray for a black jury ( […]


  8. […] if you are black, pray for a black jury ( […]


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