Race and the Jury
Illegal Discrimination in Jury Selection
Illegal Discrimination in Jury SelectionRead the report
EJI Releases New Report Documenting Widespread Underrepresentation of People of Color on Juries
Today, Black people and other people of color are excluded from participating in our jury system at every step of the jury selection process:
- when the court system creates lists of potential jurors,
- when potential jurors are notified to come to court,
- when judges decide which potential jurors are qualified to serve, and
- when prosecutors use peremptory strikes to remove potential jurors.
EJI’s new report explains how racial bias continues to infect our legal system.
Race and the Jury explains that illegal racial discrimination in jury selection inflicts harm on excluded jurors, produces wrongful convictions and excessive sentences, and compromises the integrity of the legal system as a whole.
The report documents the country’s long history of tolerating racial bias in jury selection and a continuing indifference to correcting widespread underrepresentation of people of color on juries.
Race-based discrimination in jury selection was outlawed nearly 150 years ago. But as we detailed in our 2010 report on illegal racial discrimination in jury selection, the problem is a continuing legacy of our history of racial injustice.
The problem persists because those who perpetrate or tolerate racial bias—including trial and appellate courts, defense lawyers, lawmakers, and prosecutors—act with impunity. Courts that fail to create jury lists that fairly represent their communities face no repercussions. Prosecutors who unlawfully strike Black people from juries don’t get fined, sanctioned, or held accountable.
Several states, including California, Washington, Connecticut, and New Jersey, have recognized the problem and implemented reforms or initiated studies. But other states have hesitated to address the problem. Most states have done nothing.
Equal Justice Initiative, “Race and the Jury: Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection” (2021).