Why Black Defendants Don’t Get Judged By A Jury Of Their Peers

Aug 20, 2020

Criminal defendants are entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers. But prosecutors remove Black jurors from the jury more than twice as often than white jurors, according to a Michigan State University study.
Credit StarsApart/Flickr/CC

The North Carolina Supreme Court banned the state from reinstating the death sentence on a Black man named Marcus Robinson last Friday. Robinson was removed from death row in 2012  and sentenced to life without parole after a North Carolina judge found that his trial was influenced by racial discrimination in the jury. At Robinson’s original trial, the prosecution removed half of qualified Black jurors from serving — but only 15% of white jurors. 

Non-white jury pool members get excluded from juries twice as often as their white counterparts in North Carolina, according to research by Wake Forest University law professors. This discrimination persists despite a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that striking jurors on the basis of race is unconstitutional. The racial inequity of jury selection was the recent topic for a meeting of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. Host Anita Rao talks with Emily Coward, a project attorney for the North Carolina Racial Equity Network Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government. Coward presented her work and statistics to Cooper’s task force Tuesday and shares that information as well as possible solutions.