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Jury pools are 81% white,
but whites make up only 64% of the population

The right to be judged by a fair and impartial jury of one’s peers is a fundamental bedrock principle of the criminal justice system, rooted in the North Carolina and United States constitutions. This right is threatened on two main levels: first, the demographics of the group of potential jurors that arrive in the courtroom, then through use of peremptory strikes by attorneys in trial. Not having a jury of one’s peers has been shown to have dire consequences on the outcome of a trial.

JURY POOL DIVERSITY

81%

White Jurors Available for Service

16%

Black Jurors Available for Service

1%

Native American Jurors Available

.3%

Latino Jurors Available for Service

Of those 7,421 eligible to be struck in a 2012 study of death penalty cases in North Carolina, 81.6% were white, 16.3% were black, 1.1% were Native American, and 0.3% were Latino. Compare those numbers to the North Carolina general population: 64% white, 22% black, 1.6% Native American, 8.9% Latino.

In non-capital cases, few studies have been done on whether the entire pools from which attorneys have to draw their juries actually reflect the demographics of the area in which a trial takes place. The study cited above and copious anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that jury pools do not reflect the racial or ethnic composition of the surrounding communities. Underrepresentation of racial or ethnic groups in jury pools has serious ramifications. Studies have shown that the composition of jury pools influences outcomes (conviction versus acquittal) of criminal trials, and that the appearance of race-based exclusion from jury service undermines the perceived legitimacy of the justice system. Additionally, jury service is a shared civic responsibility from which no citizen should be excluded on the basis of race or ethnicity.

NC-CRED is co-sponsoring research by Dr. Maureen Berner at the UNC School of Government that will determine the representativeness of the jury pool in North Carolina’s District 15B.

Jury Composition Does Impact Case Outcome

81%

All White Jury:

Conviction Rate for Black Defendants

66%

All White Jury:

Conviction Rate for White Defendants

73%

At Least One Black Juror:

Conviction Rate for Black Defendants

71%

At Least One Black Juror:

Conviction Rate for White Defendants

According to a Duke University study, juries formed from all-white jury pools in Florida convicted black defendants 16% more often than white defendants. Black defendants were convicted 81% of the time, while white defendants were convicted only 66% of the time. When at least one member of the jury pool was black, conviction rates for white (73%) and black (71%) defendants were nearly identical.

Solutions to Lack of Jury Pool Diversity

Diversity in jury pools has been increased in Nebraska by expanding the way the “master list” of potential jury member’s names are collected. Just like North Carolina’s law {N.C.G.S.§ 9-2(b)}, Nebraska’s law used to cull names for jury service from only voter and driver rolls. Nebraska has found that by simply adding state identification card holders to this list, the representation of blacks, Latinos and in some cases Native Americans has significantly improved.

16.1

Rate of Disparity for Black Jurors before Reform

8

Rate of Disparity for Latino Jurors Before Reform

1.8

Rate of Disparity for Black Jurors after Reform

4.6

Rate of Disparity for Latino Jurors after Reform

Level of disparity before the law changed to include state identification card holders was 16.1 for blacks, it has been reduced to 1.8 after the law changed. Level of disparity for Latinos was 8.0 and it has been reduced to 4.6—this is in one of the counties they studied. (Native American disparity rate stayed stagnant for this county at 0.5)