Three Reasons Why Minorities Shouldn't Avoid Jury Duty

JuryBoxby Palooke
I cannot stress this enough: If you are called to jury duty DO NOT TRY TO AVOID IT!! I know you're probably thinking you have better things to do. In reality, as a citizen of the United States, few responsibilities are more important than serving on a jury, especially if you are a minority.

And I am not being hyperbolic. The jury process is where ordinary citizens are invited to participate in the handing out of

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justice. What could be more important than ensuring the creation of justice in society?

Unfortunately, such a grave responsibility is too frequently removed from the hands of minorities. Racial discrimination [1] in the selection of juries remain a persistent problem that undermines our justice system. This has certainly been the case in my personal experience practicing law.

In every trial where my client is black, whether a plaintiff in an employment discrimination case or a defendant in a criminal case, the opposing counsel has used its preemptory challenges to strike minorities from the jury. Stop; re-read that sentence and let it sink in. Yes, that's right, 100% of the time when I have a black client the opposing counsel has struck minority jurors.

To provide a little educational background, let me explain the jury selection process (at least in the state of Florida). A jury is chosen from the venire panel. The venire panel consists of a certain number of potential jurors. The number of venire panel members depends on the type of case.

Each side has a chance to question the members of the venire panel in a process known as voir dire (from the French, roughly translated to "speak the truth"). After voir dire, the judge goes down the line of potential jurors based on seating order and asks each side if a particular juror is acceptable or not. The judge will do so until both sides reach the first 6 or 12 jurors who they both can agree on.

Again, the number depends on the particular case. During this part of the process each side can exercise a preemptory challenge, they have three or six total, which allows them to strike a potential juror for any reason or no reason at all; it just cannot be for a discriminatory reason.

The preemptory strikes are what lawyers use to remove minorities from juries. Whenever this has happened to me, I always ask for a racially neutral reason[2] for striking the potential juror. The explanations opposing counsel provide are often specious at best, and sometimes downright absurd.

For instance a prosecutor once struck a black juror because he had on a Bob Marley shirt, while another attorney tried to strike a black juror because he was retired from Duke Energy. If blatant attempts like these to disenfranchise minorities isn't enough to compel you to serve on a jury, here are three more reasons.                                                 Continue


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