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Juries Pulled from All-White Jury Pools Convict Black Defendants More Often Than Whites, Study Finds

Posted Apr 19, 2012 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An all-white jury pool is linked to higher conviction rates for black defendants, according to a study of more than 700 noncapital felony trials in two Florida counties.

Juries drawn from all-white jury pools convicted black defendants 81 percent of the time and white defendants 66 percent of the time, according to a press release and the study. When the jury pool included at least one black person, the conviction rates were nearly identical: 71 percent for black defendants and 73 percent for whites.

The study offers a reason why adding blacks to the jury pool can affect trial outcomes even when they aren’t seated on the jury: Peremptory challenges used up to strike blacks leave others on the jury who likely have the same attitudes toward the case.

The study’s senior author is Patrick Bayer, chairman of Duke University's economics department. He says the findings imply that criminal justice is “highly uneven” because conviction rates can vary with differences in the jury pool. "Simply put, the luck of the draw on the racial composition of the jury pool has a lot to do with whether someone is convicted and that raises obvious concerns about the fairness of our criminal justice system," Bayer said in the press release.

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