The staff of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has looked closely at jury selection procedures in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. We uncovered shocking evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection in every state. We identified counties where prosecutors have excluded nearly 80% of African Americans qualified for jury service. We discovered majority-black counties where capital defendants nonetheless were tried by all-white juries. We found evidence that some prosecutors employed by state and local governments actually have been trained to exclude people on the basis of race and instructed on how to conceal their racial bias. In many cases, people of color not only have been illegally excluded but also denigrated and insulted with pretextual reasons intended to conceal racial bias.
In Mississippi, Alvin Robinson, an African-American man, was on trial for murder after he’d allegedly had an altercation with and killed a white man following a frightful traffic incident. During the jury selection for his trial, an African-American woman showed up dutifully for service, but was turned away because she had “no ties to the community,” though she’d worked for the same local company for six years. One by one, the African-Americans who had been summoned were dismissed from service.
In a silent protest to being stricken from the jury for what she suspected to be a thinly-veiled attempt to maintain the racial homogeny of the all-white jury, this woman returned to the courthouse each day, only to watch Mr. Robinson be found guilty for murder (even though three of the jurors slept through portions of the trial) and sentenced to prison. Continue reading