By: Alicia Miller
I was a defense attorney in Indianapolis, Indiana for five years. Each time I had a jury trial, my goal was to choose the most compassionate, open-minded jurors for my client. During my most recent jury selection, every African-American juror fought to be removed from the selection pool and ultimately told the Judge they were unable and unwilling to be fair and impartial.
The problem is, juries usually do not reflect diversity in the community. Not only is it hard to get citizens to show up for jury duty; it is extremely difficult not to lose diverse perspectives throughout the jury selection process.
I know nobody wakes up and thinks, “I really want to do jury duty today!” However, for many defendants, plaintiffs, and victims, a jury trial is the day they’ve been waiting on for months, or even years. It is the day that their “peers” will determine justice. The problem is, juries usually do not reflect diversity in the community. Not only is it hard to get citizens to show up for jury duty; it is extremely difficult not to lose diverse perspectives throughout the jury selection process.
Black and Hispanic people are arrested, convicted, and harshly sentenced at a higher rate than their white counterparts. A lesser-known reality of the justice system is that the victim’s race adds another layer to these disparities. For example, defendants who murder whites are more likely to receive the death penalty than those who murder blacks. Many unjust outcomes result from viewpoints being eliminated before and throughout the jury selection process. We need a compassionate legal system. Citizens who understand the inequalities in the justice system should serve as finders of fact and law. People who have had similar experiences to the parties in cases should be the ones analyzing evidence. You may feel like the legal system is unfair, but your meaningful participation as a juror can make a huge difference.