NBC via Yahoo News reports: “Discrimination is illegal, but peremptory challenges allow the prosecution and defense to dismiss potential jurors without cause. A review of appeals in California involving peremptory challenges finds Black jurors are struck more than any other group.”
It is very difficult for people to look at these findings and not find bias in jury selections.
“According to the executive summary of the study:
“Racial discrimination is an ever-present feature of jury selection in California. This report investigates the history, legacy, and continuing practice of excluding people of color, especially African Americans, from California juries through the exercise of peremptory challenges. Unlike challenges for cause, each party in a trial has the right to excuse a specific number of jurors without stating a reason and without the court’s approval. In California, peremptory challenges are defined by statute.
“Historically, the main vice of peremptory challenges was that prosecutors wielded them with impunity to remove African Americans from jury service. These strikes were part and parcel of the systematic exclusion of Blacks from civil society. We found that prosecutors continue to exercise peremptory challenges to remove African Americans and Latinx people from California juries for reasons that are explicitly or implicitly related to racial stereotypes.
“In 1978, in People v. Wheeler, our state supreme court was the first court in the nation to adopt a three-step procedure intended to reduce prosecutors’ discriminatory use of peremptory challenges. Almost a decade later, in Batson v. Kentucky, the United States Supreme Court approved a similar approach with the goal of ending race-based strikes against African-American prospective jurors. An essential feature of the ‘Batson/Wheeler procedure’ is that it only provides a remedy for intentional discrimination. Thus, at step one, the objecting party must establish a sufficient showing—known as a ‘prima facie case’—of purposeful discrimination. At step two, if the trial court agrees that the objecting party has made such a showing, the burden of producing evidence shifts to the striking party to give a ‘race-neutral’ reason. At step three, the trial court decides whether the objecting party has established purposeful discrimination.
‘If the court finds that the striking party’s reason was credible, it denies the Batson objection. In his concurring opinion in Batson, Justice Thurgood Marshall warned that Batson’s three-step procedure would fail to end racially discriminatory peremptory strikes. He anticipated that prosecutors would easily be able to produce “race-neutral” reasons at Batson’s second step, and that judges would be ill-equipped to second-guess those reasons. Further, Justice Marshall doubted Batson’s efficacy because the procedure did nothing to curb strikes motivated by unconscious racism—known more often today as implicit bias.
“Justice Marshall was prescient: 34 years after Batson was decided, prosecutors in California still disproportionately exercise peremptory challenges to exclude African Americans and Latinx people from juries.
“The Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic explored the shortcomings of the Batson procedure.
“Our report investigates how the California Supreme Court went from a judiciary that championed the eradication of race-based strikes to a court that resists the United States Supreme Court’s limited efforts to enforce Batson. We conclude that Batson is a woefully inadequate tool
to end racial discrimination in jury selection. ”