Not Enough African Americans Making it onto Kentucky Juries

09/21/2007

According to the Courier Journal, not enough African Americans are making it onto Kentucky juries. While African Americans make up about 20% of the county's population, they make up only about 16% of criminal juries and 16% of criminal juries. As a result, the Jefferson Circuit court will begin to monitor strikes in an attempt to figure out why our juries do not reflect our population. I can only speculate as to the reason. In my experience, blacks are not 20% of the venire, making it unlikely that 20% of the eventual jury will be people of color. I will look forward to seeing the results. Here is the complete story: Study: Blacks underrepresented on juries By Jason Riley jriley@courier-journal.com The Courier-Journal Two-thirds of the defendants on trial in Jefferson County courts over the last four months were black, while about 16 percent of the jurors also were black, according to a study released Tuesday. And the number of black jurors who sat on civil trials was 11 percent, according to the study by the Commission on Racial Fairness. By comparison, African Americans make up about 20 percent of the total population in Jefferson County, and the commission had hoped to get a similar result for jury representation. In early October, the 22-member commission asked local judges to begin monitoring the number of blacks on jury panels and track how and why they are being removed. The results were announced Tuesday afternoon. The commission was set to discuss them. The surveys results come more than a year after a Courier-Journal series found that Jefferson County residents who live in low-income, mostly black areas are less likely to sit on juries. The commission study found that of the 28 criminal cases followed since late September, 48 jurors were black and 249 were white. Of the 10 civil cases studied, 12 jurors were black and 86 were white. The commission had hoped to learn whether there is a problem with racial diversity in the courts and where it is occurring — whether it be with random removals, prosecutor or defense attorney challenges or a lack of blacks in the pool. According to the results, prosecutors removed 24 percent of the black jurors in criminal trials compared to 76 percent of the white jurors. While defense attorneys struck eight percent black and 92 percent white. The Commission on Racial Fairness has also has been tracking the race of the county’s total jury pool, roughly 250 people chosen every two weeks. Of the 11 jury pools looked at, only one was made up of at least 20 percent black members. Unlike some states, Kentucky courts don’t track jurors’ race to determine whether minorities are fairly represented. State court officials have said they don’t ask about race to avoid the appearance that it is a factor in jury selection. The newspaper series found that attorneys across the state — both prosecutors and defense lawyers — removed potential jurors, including minorities, for the kinds of clothes they wear, for being single parents, even for the expressions on their faces. And it found that some courts, like Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, ask potential jurors to list their race to ensure that jury pools represent the community. The commission is expected to issue a report on its findings and present them to Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert. Reporter Jason Riley can be reached at (502) 582-4727.