New York Times Weighs in On Voir Dire Discrimination

The New York Times just ran an editorial that concerns racial discrimination in jury selection:

Marcus Robinson, who has been on death row in North Carolina since 1994, was the first person to challenge a death sentence under the state’s 2009 Racial Justice Act. That law is the nation’s first to give inmates the chance to have their sentences reduced to life without parole based on proof that racial bias played a significant role in their case…On Friday, Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that Mr. Robinson was the victim of clear discrimination in jury selection and commuted his sentence.

In cases like this, the immediate harm of such discrimination is failing to form a jury of peers and grant the defendant a fair trial. As is often pointed out in this blog, however, such practices also do a lesser harm to the prospective jurors themselves, who are denied the civic educational opportunity that the jury provides.

In any case, glad to see the Times recognizing the importance of challenging racially biased voir dire processes.


About jgastil

John Gastil is Head and Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, where he specializes in political deliberation and group decision making.
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