Embracing Affirmative Jury
Selection for Racial Fairness
[You'd almost have to be black to understand. All their grievances, all their
distrust of the system, all the beliefs people had in the evil of the system.
Suddenly, it all turned out to be true.]
—Clarence Dickson, the highest-ranking black administrator in the
Miami Police Department, in responding to the 1980 acquittal ver-
dict of four white police officers in the murder trial of Arthur
McDuffie, a black motorist, by the all-white jury (Porter & Dunn,
[They kill with love.]
—Innocent black death row inmate John Coffery, telling the head
guard, Paul Edgecome (played by Tom Hanks), before facing his
own electrocution in The Green Mile.
The fact that an all-white jury that convicts a black defendant or acquits a white defendant against overwhelming evidence of his guilt is deeply disturbing. The fact that a jury is all white has the powerful effect of racializing the jury proceeding. In reality, however, a black defendant in most jurisdictions is often confronted by white police officers, indicted by an all-white grand jury, prosecuted by a team of all-white district attorneys, convicted by a predominantly, if not all, white jury, sentenced by a white judge, denied appeals by white state appellate court jurists and white federal judges, and executed by a team of white prison officials. Such criminal proceedings and jury trials carry a long-lasting impression