STUDIES: Blacks Struck from Juries at Twice the Rate of Whites

A two-year Dallas Morning News investigation of jury selection in Dallas County has revealed that prosecutors exclude blacks from juries at more than twice the rate they reject whites, and that race is the most important personal trait affecting which jurors prosecutors reject. The paper's review also found that when potential black and white jurors answered key questions about criminal justice issues the same way, blacks were rejected at a higher rate.
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The study examined 108 (non-death penalty) felony cases tried in 2002. Among the findings revealed by the study were the following:
  • Prosecutors rejected 79% of blacks who favored rehabilitation over punishment or deterence, but only 55% of the whites who gave the same answer.

  • Prosecutors excluded 78% of the blacks who acknowledged that they or someone close to them had had contact with the criminal justice system, compared with only 39% of whites.

  • Prosecutors rejected every black who said they or someone close to them had had a bad experience with police or the courts, compared with 39% of whites.

  • Defense attorneys excluded white jurors at three times the rate they rejected blacks.

Texas District Judge Henry Wade Jr., whose father's office was cited repeatedly for race bias in jury selection, said, "I think informally prosecutors talk and say, you know, 'What can we do to get minorities off the jury panel?'" Wade added that when prosecutors ask jurors whether punishment, deterrence or rehabilitation is the main purpose of sentencing, the question is calculated to try to get blacks off juries. "That's just a taught question. A lot of minorities are going to say rehabilitation, so you strike everybody who says rehabilitation and you're covered under Batson. I think that's the only reason they ask it," stated Wade. (In Batson v. Kentucky (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court held that striking jurors on the basis of race was unconstitutional.) In the past six years, none of the thousands of cases brought to trial in the County has been reversed by Texas courts on a Batson challenge.

(Dallas Morning News, August 21, 2005; part 1 of a 3-part series). See Race and DPIC's page on Thomas Miller-El, a case in which the Supreme Court found racial bias in jury selection in Dallas.