The ongoing fight against racial discrimination in jury selection
January 19, 2022 – As all-white juries continue to dominate, what is being done around the nation to combat the lack of diversity?
An excellent article from the Washington Post sheds light on the persisting issues surrounding racial discrimination in juries across the nation. It explores the reasons why our juries remain so predominantly white, and discusses the ongoing efforts being made to eliminate racial bias in jury selection. Lila Silverstein, a WAP attorney, is at the forefront of these efforts.
An excerpt from the article:
In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Batson v. Kentucky that the opposing attorney can object to a peremptory strike but has to show that the dismissal was an act of intentional racial discrimination. Advocates for increasing jury diversity say that bar has proven to be nearly impossible to clear. But in 2018, thanks to Byng and Silverstein’s advocacy, Washington became the first state to adopt rules aimed at eliminating not just intentional, but also implicit, bias in jury selection. […]
“Anecdotally, we are seeing that lawyers are being much more careful about exercising peremptory challenges to exclude jurors and that judges are sustaining objections to peremptory challenges much more frequently than they did before,” Silverstein said. “On the appellate level, there have been several cases over the last few years where the courts are reversing convictions where lawyers exercised inappropriate peremptory challenges,” she added, noting that in State v. Jefferson, the Washington Supreme Court reversed a murder conviction.
This has been a major shift in Washington, said Silverstein, who added that there had never been a reversal for racial discrimination in jury selection in the state before the new rule, despite the issue being raised more than 40 times since the federal Supreme Court decision in Batson v. Kentucky.
To learn more, please read: “Many juries in America remain mostly White, prompting states to take action to eliminate racial discrimination in their selection” by Emmanuel Felton (washingtonpost.com)