Cortney Busch

The racist reality of the US justice system

on 02 June 2010

Death row - table through window

The legal system in the US is not only racist in selecting those to put to death, but also in the recruitment of jurors where death is on the table. In a new study by the Equal Justice Initiative, jury selection in the south – studied in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee – is racist when prosecutors seek the death penalty.

The New York Times reports:

“Studies have shown that racially diverse juries deliberate longer, consider a wider variety of perspectives and make fewer factual errors than all-white juries, and that predominantly black juries are less likely to impose the death penalty.”

Prosecutors do not need to provide “persuasive, or even plausible” reasons for dismissing individuals during jury selection. The only reason they cannot give is the reason of race. A prosecutor in South Carlina once dismissed a black juror because he “shucked and jived” when he walked; a prosecutor in Missouri thought a man’s hair too long and didn’t like the goatee of another potential juror, both dismissed.

Time and time again, jurors in death penalty cases are chosen by their skin colour rather than their merits or ability to be impartial. Time and time again, black defendants are sentenced to death more than their white counter-parts.  Tragic realities for a modern US justice system.

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