Study Finds Mississippi Prosecutors Disproportionately Exclude Black Jurors


Prosecutors in central Mississippi were more than four times more likely to exclude Black jurors, the analysis revealed.

APM Reports gathered data on juries in Mississippi’s Fifth Circuit Court District over the 26-year period from 1992 to 2017 and analyzed information on more than 6700 jurors in 225 trials prosecuted by District Attorney Doug Evans.

Of the 6763 prospective jurors who appeared for jury service, 61 percent were white and 39 percent were Black, which roughly reflected the district’s population, which is 40 percent Black.

At every step in the jury selection process, the analysis revealed stark racial disparities. First, of the 1342 jurors who were struck for cause, 57 percent were Black, and only 43 percent were white. These strikes for cause reduced the African American proportion of the jury pool to 35 percent.

Prosecutors then used their peremptory strikes mainly against Black prospective jurors. Of 1275 total jurors struck by the prosecution, 71 percent were Black, and only 29 percent were white. After the prosecution’s strikes, the remaining jury pool was only 21 percent Black.

Mr. Evans’s office struck 50 percent of eligible Black jurors compared to only 11 percent of eligible white jurors. The results showed that prosecutors were 4.4 times more likely to strike Black jurors.

Ultimately, 68 percent of the people who served as jurors or alternates between 1992 and 2017 were white and 32 percent were Black.

Reporters used more than 60 variables to track jurors’ responses to questions during jury selection in 89 trials for which a complete transcript was available. They found that the stark racial disparity in prosecutors’ jury strikes persisted regardless of how jurors answered questions.

Even when controlling for other, race-neutral factors raised during juror questioning, Black jurors were still far more likely to be struck than white jurors who answered in the same way. For example, prosecutors struck 96 percent of Black people who said they had been accused of a crime but only 60 percent of white people who said they had been accused of a crime.

The report shows that people of color continue to be excluded from jury service because of their race, despite the United States Supreme Court’s efforts to limit the practice. EJI believes that the underrepresentation and exclusion of people of color from juries seriously undermines the credibility and reliability of the criminal justice system, and continues to challenge discriminatory jury selection.

Prosecutors in central Mississippi were more than four times more likely to exclude Black jurors.