Discrimination Against Prospective Jurors
When someone shows up to be a juror, their voice matters. It is a democratic right to serve as a juror, just like voting, and each individual vote can have a big impact in a trial. It’s also an essential right for the accused to have a fair jury that is not tainted by discrimination. In a criminal jury trial, just one person’s vote can stop someone from being convicted.
After centuries of institutionalized prejudice and the denial of basic citizenship rights to Black people, women, immigrants, and many others, various rules were created to ensure that attorneys are not allowed to discriminate against potential jurors based on their race, sex, or other legally-protected identity. A Supreme Court case, Batson v. Kentucky, sets the current rules that most courts follow to figure out whether a lawyer has discriminated against a potential juror. But it’s a very high standard and appellate courts do not often rule that a prosecutor intentionally discriminated.
Despite these longstanding rules against juror discrimination, there are still instances when prosecutors remove jurors based on prejudice. For that and other reasons, many people in the criminal legal system feel that juries do not fairly reflect the community. In a recent report commissioned by then-Chief Judge Janet Difiore, the Special Advisor on Equal Justice to the NY courts found that New York has a “second-class system of justice for people of color.” The report specifically noted that participants in the criminal legal system raised concerns about prospective jurors of color being unfairly precluded from jury service.
Sometimes courts say, yes, an attorney did discriminate. It would be understandable if you assumed the consequence for this discrimination would be swift and severe, especially if the perpetrator was a prosecutor, one of the most powerful government officials.
“One of the most vexing aspects of racial discrimination in jury selection is impunity. Even when a court finds that a prosecutor has intentionally and illegally discriminated on the basis of race in an individual case, the prosecutor rarely suffers any adverse consequence.”
Race and the Jury, Equal Justice Initiative
The below grievances allege that a court decision granted a Batson objection or otherwise found an equal protection violation and that none of the involved attorneys, at the time the grievances were written, had received public discipline according to the New York Attorney Detail Report.
Click the names below to read the grievances.