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CA To Look At Questions Of Racial Discrimination In Jury Selection: Peremptory Strikes, BLM Support And More




A jury box is shown.
A jury box is shown.
File photo by Scott Jones via Flickr Creative Commons

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In the coming months, a California court of appeals will be examining whether a juror can be struck from a jury pool for supporting Black Lives Matter. 

Other states have taken up this question as well, as BLM has gained larger prominence after the killing of George Floyd. 

One of the issues at hand is whether striking a juror for supporting BLM amounts to racial discrimination. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that attorneys can engage in peremptory strikes (meaning, they can remove jurors without explaining the reasoning), as long as they’re decisions are not racially motivated. If the opposing attorney thinks discrimination was at play they can mount a “Batson challenge,” and the other attorney will have to explain to the judge why their decision wasn’t based on race. Some have criticized this process, pointing to the fact that reasons such as juror’s demeanor are often used as justification. Is support for BLM a proxy for racial discrimination?

The California appeals court’s review is set against the backdrop of a recent study out of UC Berkeley, which found that prosecutors frequently strike people of color, especially Black prospective jurors, from juries. 

We dive into the issue of jury discrimination and how they intersect with juror’s opinions of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Guests:

Jody Armour, professor of law at USC; he tweets @NiggaTheory

Kathy Kellermann, president of ComCon, a litigation, trial and jury consulting firm based in Los Angeles