New studies show racial profiling doesn’t work and white juries are biased against blacks

By on May 1, 2012

As issues of race are debated against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin killing, here are two recent studies to keep in mind about just how biased the criminal justice system is against black Americans.

The first is a recent study about New York City’s stop-and-frisk program and about racial profiling. In a nutshell, it doesn’t work.

[T]he study shows that out of those stopped only 0.15 per cent resulted in firearms charges. This number stands to directly contradict Commissioner Kelly’s statements that the stops are responsible for the fall in gun crime. Also of note is the fact that out of all ethnicities stopped, white people had the highest chance of having committed a crime, despite being proportionally the least searched.

Then there is a second study and its disturbing findings:

Juries formed from all-white jury pools convict black defendants significantly (16 percentage points) more often than white defendants, and (ii) this gap in conviction rates is entirely eliminated when the jury pool includes at least one black member. The impact of jury race is much greater than what a simple correlation of the race of the seated jury and conviction rates would suggest. These findings imply that the application of justice is highly uneven and raise obvious concerns about the fairness of trials in jurisdictions with a small proportion of blacks in the jury pool.

Patrick Bayer, senior author of the study, puts the findings in context:

Our Sixth Amendment right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury of our peers is a bedrock of the criminal justice system in the U.S., and yet, despite the importance of that right, there’s been very little systematic analysis of how the composition of juries actually affects trial outcomes, how the rules that we have in place for selecting juries impact those outcomes… Simply put, the luck of the draw on the racial composition of the jury pool has a lot to do with whether someone is convicted and that raises obvious concerns about the fairness of our criminal justice system.

Adam Serwer wants more information on all-white juries vs all-white jury pools:

[Other studies] like this one from the Equal Justice Initiative, suggest that in some areas of the country prosecutors go out of their way to strike black jurors during the selection process.

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