Pittsburgh Gets More Minorities In Jury Pools; Bias Remains


During jury selection for a rape case, defense attorney Frank Walker interviewed three potential jurors who said they couldn’t serve because “they ‘don’t like black people,’ ” said Walker, who is black and was defending a black client. “At first I was shocked, but I’m so used to it now it doesn’t faze me,” he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I think about half of the people who say that just say it to get out of jury duty,” said Walker, 31. “Either way, if they say that, I don’t want them there.”

This underscores the need to ensure that minorities are properly represented on juries, said criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University. “Being discriminatory is a pretty good excuse to get kicked off,” he said. “The bigger issue is who gets into the jury pool.” Last year, 7.6 percent of people in the local jury pool were minorities, and 44 percent of people convicted in Allegheny County criminal cases were minorities in 2006. Richard Narvin of the county’s Office of Conflict Counsel, which defends indigent clients when the public defender has a conflict, said about one in every 50 jurors uses racial excuses for his clients. “It’s getting much better. The whole atmosphere is better. We’re getting more minorities in the pool,” Narvin said. “But sometimes I do hear those excuses. I had a guy who said, ‘I’m very old-school.’ What he’s really saying is that he thinks black people are more likely to commit crimes.”

Link: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribunereview/search/s_557521.html

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