Can one be sure that in the case of trial, he/she will be judged fairly by the jury? The evidence suggests that not all U.S. citizens can be equally guaranteed the basic right established by the Sixth Amendment. Many scholars argue that the current community cross-section system may be increasingly unfair towards certain minority groups leading to their underrepresentation in the court. Additionally, such a tendency is associated with increasing negative perceptions towards the criminal justice system.
In this regard, Adamakos (2016) argues that existing discrimination towards minorities during the jury selection process makes those groups “mistrust of a white-dominated judicial system” and, thus, ignore abiding the existing institutional norms (p. 8). On the one hand, that may further increase the representation gap between dominant and minority groups, and, on the other hand, it can reduce the respect to the juridical system, leading to a rise in deviation. For that reason, this essay intends to provide a brief discussion of the barriers that deter impartial jury selection and to analyze how the existence of this issue within courts affects other institutions. Moreover, the current paper seeks to develop recommendations to address this problem.
Barriers to Fair Jury Selection
The issue of underrepresentation of minority groups in the jury is mainly explained by three reasons, namely processual, socio-economic and discrimination-based factors. The former cause is related to the procedure of how jurors are selected. In this respect, Paris (2020) maintains that occasionally people from minority groups face trials in areas other than the ones defendants are originally from. However, other locations’ racial and socio-economic composition may differ significantly from where the accused person resides.
Therefore, the jury would not fairly represent the community where the criminal act was committed. Also, Adamakos (2016) states that the process of jurors’ selection may be inadequate because people are chosen based on registered-voters and driving license lists. The latter usually would include fewer people from lower classes and minority groups than people of other groups, which implies that the selection is unfair.
Socio-economic reasons include the disparity between the earnings of different groups, which deter people’s participation as jury. That happens due to small financial compensations that are far below the average daily earnings. Therefore, poor people would be less likely to become jury members. Finally, direct discrimination may also be one of the reasons for unfair jury cross-section selection. Although the cases such as Batson v. Kentucky created a precedent against open intolerance towards “otherness” in the context of jury choice, some researchers argue that discrimination still exists implicitly (Gonzales Rose, 2019).
Impact on Other Institutions
As it was mentioned previously, the unfair representation of certain groups in the court can lead to mistrust in the system and consequent deviations in behavior. However, this, in turn, can have a spillover effect on other institutions. For instance, people from minority groups knowing that the criminal justice system is prejudiced towards them, may refuse to follow instructions from the authority representatives such as police officers. Therefore, it is fair to claim that institutions within the criminal justice system are highly interconnected.
Overall, the current essay analyzed the problem of achieving impartial jury cross-sectional selection and what the consequences are if institutions fail to do so. It was found that the main barriers that negatively affect fair population representation in the court are processual (related to the methods of how jurors are selected), socio-economic (related to population financial disparity), and discrimination-based factors. Moreover, it was argued that the existing discrimination within the courts could affect other organizations such as police departments.
Based on the previous discussion, this paper seeks to propose certain recommendations to facilitate the issue’s solution. First, the courts in each province can conduct a population census to investigate the community composition for representation purposes. Second, computerized systems can help reduce potential discriminations of one group over another due to class conflict. Finally, the courts can offer greater financial compensation to people from lower classes to increase their motivation to participate as juries.
Adamakos, S. (2016). Race and the jury: How the law is keeping minorities off the jury. Washington University Undergraduate Law Review, 1(1), 1-23.
Gonzales Rose, J. B. (2019). Color-blind but not color-deaf: Accent discrimination in jury selection. N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change, 44, 309-319.
Paris, A. (2020). An unfair cross section: Federal jurisdiction for Indian country crimes dismantles jury community conscience. Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy, 16(1), 92-118.