“Whitewashing the Jury Box”
After evaluating nearly 700 cases decided by the California Courts of Appeal from 2006 through 2018 that involved objections to prosecutors’ peremptory challenges, the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic recently concluded that Batson procedures are ineffective in curbing discriminatory exclusions of black and Latinx jurors. Researchers also found that prosecutors use peremptory strikes to disproportionately remove minority jurors, training manuals instruct prosecutors to conceal race-based strikes (one manual gives 77 race-neutral reasons to mask improper reasons), implicit bias taints peremptory challenges, courts rarely find Batson error, and appellate review of trial courts often allows trial judges to avoid their gatekeeping responsibility.
D.C. Courts Ease Up on Felony Exclusion from Jury Service
D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin this week announced that the court has modified its Jury Plan so that persons with felony convictions are eligible to serve as petit jurors one year after completion of their sentence—the minimum allowed under D.C. law. Previously, a felony conviction barred persons from serving jury duty for ten years after they completed their sentences.
Texas Jury Renders Verdict During Pandemic
Law 360 reports that a three-day civil jury trial was completed in a courtroom in Sherman, Texas this week. Jury selection was not what we are accustomed to. As it began, everyone entering the courtroom had their temperature taken with a no-contact thermometer. Thirty-five prospective jurors were required to wear a mask during voir dire. Defense attorney Adam T. Hamilton said this was the most challenging and different aspect of the trial, as selecting a jury without being able to see their faces posed an obstacle. "It is difficult, because I draw a lot from what kind of reaction I get from people. I do try to connect to jurors as much as I can…. You ask broad questions, and a lot of those questions just drew no response." Hamilton also said that in order for the jury to understand him while he wore a mask, he had to "shout pretty good."
U.S. Courts Issue Guidance for Re-starting Jury Trials
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ guidance report was released Wednesday as courts take steps to reopen following more than two months of closures in response to the virus outbreak that has infected nearly two million people in the U.S.
Connecticut Judge Calls for Reduced Use of Peremptory Strikes in Jury Selection
TheHartford Courant last week published an op-ed piece in which appellate judge (and former trial judge) Douglas S. Lavine argues that peremptory strikes are widely misused to keep minorities off of juries. He applauds the state supreme court’s recent initiative to study how well minorities are represented on juries.
ICYMI: Webinar: Jury Service and Accessing Court Services Remotely in a (Post) Pandemic America
Yesterday, CCJ-COSCA’s Pandemic Rapid Response Team hosted a webinar announcing the results and analysis of a new national opinion poll completed by the National Center for State Courts. The session reviewed shifting attitudes toward the use of remote technology to receive court services; addressed findings about how many Americans say they have access to the tools to use those remote services; provided data on how safe people feel about reporting for jury service; and reviewed how effective Americans think masks, social distancing, and other protective measures will be in making sure a trip to the courthouse is a safe experience.