Black prospective jurors in Caddo Parish are 3 times more likely to be struck from a jury than whites, a new study released today says.
The study, conducted by anti-death penalty group Reprieve Australia, looked at 332 felony jury trials prosecuted by the Caddo Parish District Attorney Office from Jan. 28, 2003, and Dec. 5, 2012.
In the cases examined, the DA’s office used discretionary “peremptory” challenge, which doesn’t require stating a reason, to reject potential jurors. What emerged was a troubling pattern which has garnered renewed scrutiny for jury selection practices in Caddo Parish.
“In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, this pattern discloses that it strongly suggests race has played a role in the exercise of these peremptory challenges, by the Caddo Parish DA’s Office, Ursula Noye, Reprieve Australia’s vice president and Blackstrikes Fellow, said.
The nonprofit found:
–Of the trials examined, 227 (83 %) involved a black defendant.
–The district attorney’s office used discretionary “peremptory challenges” to strike qualified potential black jurors 46 % of the time as opposed to the 15 % of the time for non-black jurors.
–In Caddo Parish 22 % of trials had 2 or fewer black jurors. Not 1 defendant was acquitted in a trial were there 2 or fewer black jurors. The 51 trials with 3 or more black jurors had an acquittal rating of 12 %.
–In 224 12-% juries, there was an average of 3.86 jurors per jury who were black. 206 of these juries returned a verdict.
–Some Caddo DA prosecutors struck black jurors at rate of 4.5 to 5 times the rate they struck non-black jurors.
Source: The Advertiser, August 18, 2015
U.S.: 95% of Prosecutors Are White and They Treat Blacks Worse
About one in three black men in the United States can expect to be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Black men comprise 6% of the U.S. population but 35% of the prison population.
Along the way, they will meet a lot of white people.
Local police forces are, on average, 88 percent white. Places like Ferguson, Missouri, are but the most extreme examples of nearly all-white police departments patrolling majority-nonwhite precincts.
But the white cop is only the first responder. Throughout the criminal justice system, defendants will repeatedly encounter disproportionately white—sometimes all-white—agents of the law. Most importantly, the charges against them will be set by 95 percent white prosecutors, elected on state and local levels. In fact, two-thirds of states that elect their prosecutors have no black prosecutors at all.
Since prosecutors convict 86 percent of the prison population, this means a nearly all-white cadre of attorneys is putting a disproportionately black cohort of defendants in jail.
Now, do all these statistics really matter? Sure, it looks bad that prosecutors are almost entirely white, but that doesn’t make them racist, right?
In fact, the racial divide among prosecutors correlates with how they unequally treat black and white defendants.
Remember, the overwhelming majority of criminal cases never make it to judge or jury. A stunning 97 percent of federal convictions and roughly 95 percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas reached through plea bargaining between prosecutors and defense attorneys: If the defendant pleads guilty before a trial, he or she will receive a lesser sentence than what would likely result from a conviction after trial.
In this environment, prosecutors have enormous leverage, unchecked discretion, and nearly absolute immunity. They decide initial charges, how to negotiate with defense attorneys, and whether to accept a given plea bargain or proceed to trial.
Source: The Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson, August 17, 2015