On a serious note, a lot of things have been brought up lately regarding whether or not the D.A.'s office is systematically striking African-American jurors from panels. Alvin Nunnery in his Fox 26 interview regarding the "Canadian" e-mail alluded to the idea that there is an attitude within the D.A.'s Office (even going back to when he was a prosecutor) that an African-American juror is somehow "incapable" of serving on a jury as a fair juror.
It is an interesting debate, and I'm not going to enter it. As far as I'm concerned, if you believe that the D.A.'s office is racist, there is nothing that I can say on this blog that will change your mind of that. I'm also pretty sure that I won't be changing anybody's mind on the issues of the death penalty, abortion, or the fact that the Dallas Cowboys aren't really "America's Team".
But I would like to throw this out for your consideration, and I hope there is a frank discussion over it.
Proposition # 1 - In every criminal trial, both the Defendant and the State are entitled to a fair trial. That means that no juror should be seated that already has a bias or prejudice that could affect the State or the Defense's case. If you don't agree with that principle, then this post is probably going to be meaningless to you.
Proposition # 2 - an effective attorney should seek out those biases or prejudices when during jury selection, and make sure that those jurors are struck for cause (and if that fails, exercise a peremptory). If you don't agree with that principle, then you aren't an attorney.
Proposition # 3 - Historically, the Criminal Justice System has been extremely unfair and unkind (to put it mildly) to African-Americans. If you don't agree with that principle, you clearly live in a cave and aren't familiar with American History.
I'm a white male. I can remember multiple occasions as a kid where I was walking in the street where a sidewalk was provided when a police car drove by without stopping. I wasn't stopped. I wasn't searched. Nobody ever stopped my car because it looked like I was "didn't belong" in the neighborhood where I was driving. When I get pulled over for speeding, the officer (or more commonly the DPS trooper) never asks me if he can search my car.
Prosecutors are very much aware of the fact that probably every African-American member of a jury panel has been treated like crap at some point during his or her life by a member of law enforcement, or perhaps even a District Attorney's office.
It is just the Historical Shame of the Criminal Justice System, and it is a shame that cannot be erased.
Does it mean that all cops are racists? Of course not.
Does it mean that all D.A.'s are racists? Of course not.
But a jury trial in a criminal case is most often the deciding of fact around a particular incident and whether or not a Defendant is the factually and legally responsible for it.
It is not a referendum on whether or not racism exists in the criminal justice system.
A potential juror who is going to let their bad experience with law enforcement shape their verdict shouldn't be on a jury, regardless of their race. I think prosecutors are very aware of the fact that in dealing with an African-American potential juror. It isn't a concern over whether or not that juror is "incapable" of serving (as Alvin listed). It's more a matter of whether or not the law enforcement through its own bad actions, has ruined this juror's perception of the System as a whole. Does that make sense?
In other words, if a prosecutor is wary of an African-American potential juror, its going to be because that the prosecutor knows the lengthy history of wrongs committed against African-Americans by law enforcement. That prosecutor doesn't want it to affect his case.
UPDATE: After reading some of the scathing posts and notes relating to the post, I realized that I didn't really clarify what I meant in the last paragraph. I've updated what I badly stated in the original article with an additional paragraph.
I was trying to explain in this article that no prosecutor thinks that an African-American juror is "incapable" of serving, as Alvin accused all prosecutors of being. The unfortunate reality is that some times the experiences suffered by some people is to the degree that they can't be fair. What I was trying to justify in the article was the asking of questions regarding that previous mistreatment, and it should in no way be read as advocating the excluding of anyone from a jury who is qualified and fair.