DrumCall: 'Cast your next vote in the jury box'
On juries across America, the vote of people of color is often underrepresented and the absence of representation hinders chances for fair and impartial trials, writes guest columnist Jeremee Henry.
It’s election season. We’re all feeling campaign commercial fatigue along with the urge to silence the predictions about the outcomes of the various races. As everyone’s attention is devoted to this seasonal affair, the daily elections are being overlooked. That’s what jury trials are.
A juror’s duty consists of listening and observing then casting a vote that can alter someone’s life. As is the case with elections, all votes matter. Unfortunately, on juries across America, the vote of people of color is often underrepresented.
Representation of people of color in the jury box matters because absence there deprives the accused person of the fair and impartial trial by jury which the United States Constitution promises. The lack of jury diversity has that same trickledown effect that happens when the vote of people of color is missing in elections. Having more diversity in the jury creates the opportunity for more perspectives (maybe the perspective is similar to the person on trial). This aids the group in reaching a rational decision. The American Bar Association further explains that the lack of diversity in courtrooms allows jurors to harp on differences between themselves and the defendant, which leads to biases and robs the defendants of their constitutional right to fair and impartial jury.
To increase jury diversity, the state should increase the amount of money allowed for jury service and they should allocate resources for childcare. This helps eliminate some of the hardships many jurors of color face. There is an added benefit. Preventing barriers to Black juror participation can benefit the juror as much as the accused. Jury participation allows people of color to, for those moments they are in the jury box, feel that they are public servants. Consider casting your next ballot in the jury box.
By Jeremee Alexander Henry
Jeremee Alexander Henry is a J.D. Candidate at Southern University Law Center.
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