The right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers is sacred to Americans. Our Founding Fathers guaranteed the right in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law.”
The Sixth Amendment is meant to ensure that each of us receives a fair and impartial trial by a jury when facing criminal prosecution. The ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment extended the right to each State.
In recent years, the topic of a “jury of one’s peers” has been put into question and thrust into the national spotlight. Exposés and podcasts have brought heinous violations of the law into question. Time and time again, prosecutors will use the jury selection process to their advantage, removing prospective jurors of color without cause. Both the prosecution and defense are afforded a specific number of such peremptory challenges.
Season two of the podcast In the Dark focused on the story of Curtis Flowers, who has been tried for the same murder six times in the State of Mississippi. In practically every instance, all white juries were charged with deciding Flowers’ fate. He was convicted four times, and each time the convictions were overturned on appeal.
In all six trials, State District Attorney Doug Evans made efforts to exclude Black jurors. Flowers’ appeals argued that Evans was discriminating against jurors of color during the selection process. Last year, the United States Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts. However, the State of Mississippi could still go after Mr. Flowers for the seventh time.
Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System
While the average American may not be surprised about instances of jury discrimination below the Mason Dixon line, they may find it interesting to learn that such is the case across the country. The same is true in California. In July, we shared some statistics with our readers that are concerning.
The UC Berkeley Law’s Death Penalty Clinic found that California prosecutors excuse African-American jurors in about 75 percent and Latinx jurors in about 28 percent of cases. On the other hand, white jurors were excused in 0.4 percent of cases. Around the time the findings were published, lawmakers took action and introduced Assembly Bill 3070 (AB 3070).
Introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), AB 3070 would limit the removal of prospective jurors without cause, The Los Angeles Times reports. The bill is meant to prevent discrimination based on:
- Gender and Gender Identity
- Sexual Orientation
- National Origin
- Religious Affiliation
If Governor Gavin Newsom signs AB 3070 into law, the attorney who excuses a juror would have to provide a reason for the exclusion, if the opposing side calls the peremptory challenge into question. Then the presiding judge would decide if the action is discriminatory.
“This bill is about ending what has been going on for many, many years in this country, specifically the exclusion of Black and brown communities from juries, a problem that has been with us and that undermines confidence in the entire system,” said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you or a loved one requires legal assistance. Attorney Brower has extensive experience and can help bring about a favorable outcome for your family. You can reach our office at 714-997-4400.