White Juries Are Not Kind to Black Defendants

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Alex Tabarrok passes along the results of a new study about the racial composition of jury pools and the resulting juries:

What the authors discover is that all white juries are 16% more likely to convict black defendants than white defendants but the presence of just a single black person in the jury pool equalizes conviction rates by race. The effect is large and remarkably it occurs even when the black person is not picked for the jury. The latter may not seem possible but the authors develop an elegant model of voir dire that shows how using up a veto on a black member of the pool shifts the characteristics of remaining pool members from which the lawyers must pick; that is, a diverse jury pool can make for a more “ideologically” balanced jury even when the jury is not racially balanced.

There is, of course, no de jure discrimination at work here. The law treats every defendant and every jury member the same. But that still doesn’t mean everyone is treated the same. Far from it.

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