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D.C. Judge Rejects Jury Pool for Want of Diversity

This past Sunday, the Washington Post reported about how  D.C. Superior Court judges are responding to concerns about jury diversity. Surprisingly, the story -- which raises important questions such as the meaning of the Constitutional requirement that a jury reflect a cross section of the community or whether a nondiverse jury will produce biased results  --  hasn't attracted much discussion in the law blogs.   

According to the Post story, back in the spring, D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz sent back a pool of 70 prospective jurors because the racial composition of the group -- 61 whites, eight blacks and one Asian -- didn't align with the racial and economic population within the District. The District of Columbia is 80 percent African American, though demographic studies show that more whites are moving into the city.

There isn't much data available on how the court locates and calls District residents potentially eligible for jury service. Thus,  lawyers from the public defender service have been asking judges to allow them to examine court data on jury pools -- and this month, D.C. Superior Court Judge Boasberg ruled that the defense is entitled to information about how jurors are identified and summoned. The Public Defender's Office is hopeful that access to this date will help identify "problematic patterns." 

Legally, the composition of the jury does not need to match the exact racial composition of the forum jurisdiction. But as this post from Diversity.Inc queries, What does [D.C.'s recent action] mean for districts across the country where jury pools don't match demographics? Are all-white juries biased?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 17, 2007 at 06:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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