Under Supreme Court rulings, attorneys can’t use race to pick a jury. In Jefferson County, Ky., says the Louisville Courier-Journal, prosecutors are removing African-American jurors at a higher rate than white jurors, especially when the defendants are black. Defense lawyers are removing whites at much higher rates than blacks, in part because they say they are trying to even the playing field, a Courier-Journal analysis shows. A commission of judges, lawyers, and citizens is trying to find why African Americans are underrepresented on juries. A 2005 Courier-Journal series found that people who live in predominantly African-American areas of the county are less likely to serve on juries than those who live in mostly white areas.
Using data collected by judges, the newspaper analyzed how blacks and whites are being removed from juries and showed its findings to experts. University of Iowa law professor David Baldus said the data suggest “systemic racial discrimination” in how prosecutors and defense attorneys are choosing jurors. “It’s the same old story: Blacks are not welcome in the eyes of prosecutors and welcome in the eyes of defense attorneys,” he said. Prosecutors deny race is a factor. “We train our lawyers that if they strike for reasons of race, they can be looking for jobs elsewhere,” said Harry Rothgerber, first assistant prosecutor “That is not acceptable.” The newspaper found that prosecutors are removing 44 percent of eligible African Americans during jury selection, compared with 23 percent of white potential jurors. Defense attorneys are rejecting nearly one-third of eligible white jurors, but only 9 percent of African Americans.