New Study Indicates How Ex-Con Exclusion Laws Affect Jury Diversity

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New Study Indicates How Ex-Con Exclusion Laws Affect Jury Diversity

The Prison Policy Initiative just published “Rigging the Jury: How Each State Reduces Jury Diversity by Excluding People with Criminal Records.” After extensive study of the convict exclusion policies of every state and the District of Columbia, the Policy Initiative concluded, “the criminal justice system disproportionately targets Black people and Latinx people—so when states bar people with criminal convictions from jury service, they disproportionately exclude individuals from these groups,” thereby contributing to “a lack of jury diversity across the country.” “Rigging the Jury” includes recommendations for removing the obstacles to jury diversity.

“Using the Jury to Spread Democratic Reform in Argentina and Beyond”

That’s the title of an article written by Professors Andres Harfuch (University of Buenos Aires) and Valerie Hans (Cornell University). A live video broadcast by the authors is set for Wednesday, March 3, at 12:15 to 1:15 pm ET. More information about their presentation and a registration link is found here.

Reflections on Juror Fears of Jury Duty During the Pandemic

Hiliary Remick is a director at Magna Legal Services, a litigation support company. In (subscription required), she makes practical observations about citizens being summoned for jury service during our public health crisis. These include:

Every new decision made about how to organize prospective jurors and any information jurors receive from the court system about COVID-19, including summons or initial questionnaires, could influence jurors’ trial reactions—reassuring some and rattling others. This means that lawyers will face subtle but critical problems as they try to communicate with jurors during a civil trial weighed down with COVID-19 safety measures in place. Consider some of the other possible changes in the juror experience:

  • Jurors might object outright to being summoned for jury duty at all if their COVID-19 anxiety level is high. Jurors already tepid toward the idea of jury service might now have new doubts and questions about their health risks. Depending on their social and political views, jurors might feel resentful that the safety measures they do see are either excessive or inadequate.
  • Witnesses, including experts, may be more likely to be presented via live video feed instead of testifying in person. In addition to reducing both COVID-19 exposure and travel costs, jurors in both virtual and in-person trials conducted during the pandemic have reported that this format—as opposed to observing in-person witness testimony given through a mask and on the opposite end of the courtroom—often enhances their ability to visually assess a witness’s facial expressions and other nonverbal cues, which allows them to more easily and accurately evaluate a witness’s overall communication effectiveness and credibility. Some jurors may speculate as to why a particular witness was not physically present in court when jurors are required to be there. To address this speculation and to ameliorate any associated resentment jurors may harbor, litigants might request a judicial admonishment at the outset of trial regarding the fact that some witnesses will testify remotely in order to reduce the number of individuals allowed in the courtroom and thereby minimize COVID-19 exposure for all.
  • Jurors could also be frustrated by their inability to see and gauge facial expressions of masked lawyers and witnesses as to credibility and demeanor. They might fail to develop a rapport with masked witnesses or attorneys, for example.
  • Where the court allows counsel to unmask at certain points (e.g., during oral argument) in the trial, jurors might question why the attorneys don’t have to follow the same rules and face the same dangers as them. As with remote witnesses, this could raise juror concerns about inconsistency and unfairness in the courtroom.

Iowa Supreme Court Order Forbids For-Cause Strikes to Eliminate Jurors with Restored Citizenship Rights

Chief Justice Susan Christensen has signed an order amending Iowa’s rules of civil and criminal procedure to clarify that the rules do not allow a challenge for cause of a prospective juror whose citizenship rights have been restored.

Picture This – Where Vaccinations, the Country Chicks Fair, and Jury Selection All Take Place

The Lewis County (Washington) Fairgrounds is the go-to spot for these events in 2021. The Daily Chronicle provides us with some pictorials of this very busy place.