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Discriminatory Jury Selection Could Have Impact on High Black Incarceration Rates

by Todd A. Smith

 

Does Jury Selection Intentionally Exclude Blacks?

 

Sept. 23 was a day that I dreaded coming up on the calendar.


Like many citizens, jury selection is not something that I desire.


However, with so many African-American men not getting a fair shot at justice, I knew it was my duty to take a chance at jury selection.


I had been called before, and each time I went begrudgingly.


Although it is imperative that African-Americans volunteer for jury selection so all people can have a jury of their peers, it is possible that attorneys are intentionally excluding African-Americans from trials involving African-American defendants.


According to an article by journalist Michael Doyle, “Skeptical Supreme Court justices Monday raised serious doubts about how Georgia prosecutors secured an all-White jury in a decades-old death penalty case.


“While myriad sharp questions suggested a split court, the most persistent hammering came from liberal-leaning justices who suggested prosecutors systematically and improperly excluded African-American jurors from the panel that convicted Timothy Tyrone Foster of murder in 1987.


“Foster, who was 18 at the time of the crime, is African-American.  The victim, a 79-year-old retired elementary school teacher from Rome, Ga., was White.  The prosecutors used challenges to eliminate African-Americans from the jury pool.”


Foster’s guilt is not the question.  The process of excluding African-Americans from jury selection despite a Supreme Court decision prohibiting the use of peremptory challenges to exclude jury selection based on race is the issue.  It is especially an issue when statistics show African-Americans receiving harsher sentences for the same crime than their White counterparts.


Many critics of the African-American community cite the high incarceration rates of African-Americans as proof of an out-of-control community who need to exercise accountability before they express disgust with a system that they say holds them back.


However, one cannot objectively look at the ills of the African-American community without looking at some of the root causes of said illnesses.


Yes, one can prevent illness by taking care of themselves physically and exercising all preventative steps to ensure good health.


However, if one goes around other sick people, no matter what one has done to avoid the illness, there is a good chance that they will still end up on a sick bed.


The African-American community does suffer from self-inflicted illnesses like violence, drugs, and high dropout rates.


But the American society suffers from their own illnesses as well, and sometimes that can make the sick become even sicker.


The prison industrial complex is one way that the African-American condition has gotten worse.


Mandatory minimum sentences and vastly different punishment for crack versus powder cocaine has caused the condition of the community to get worse.


A lack of money to afford adequate legal counsel has caused the situation to get worse.


And if proven true by the United States Supreme Court, intentionally excluding Blacks from jury selection has definitely made the situation worse also.


According to Doyle, “Prosecutors’ trial notes eventually obtained in 2006 through an open records request showed that the names of African-American jury pool members were marked with a ‘B,’ highlighted in green and included on a list titled ‘Definite NOs.’”


If this proves that there has been discrimination in the jury selection process, it is no wonder why so many African-Americans have fallen victim to the incarceration epidemic.

 

No one problem is the reason for the large number of African-American men currently incarcerated (yes, accountability is needed) but when positive brothers like myself hold themselves accountable by responding to the jury selection process it is a grave miscarriage of justice if lawyers are intentionally trying to limit the constitutional rights of Black defendants.

This article was published on Friday 06 November, 2015.
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