The panel that will decide Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wes Kerrick's fate won't reflect Mecklenburg County's diversity, says the Charlotte Observer. The trial will decide whether Kerrick used excessive force when he shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell in 2013. Kerrick is white and Ferrell was an unarmed black man. African Americans make up nearly a third of the county's population, so the jury would need four black members to mirror county demographics. It now has two African Americans, and there's only one remaining seat. So far, the group includes seven whites, two Hispanics and two black women, but no black men.
African Americans historically have been underrepresented on U.S. juries. That trend persists today, experts say, and a new Charlotte Observer analysis suggests it holds true in Mecklenburg County. No law requires a jury to reflect a community's demographics, and a jury doesn't have to be diverse to be fair. Experts say one argument for diversity is that it increases public confidence in a verdict. They say another reason might be more compelling: Diversity creates better juries. Members of mixed-race juries deliberate longer, bring up a broader range of ideas and make fewer errors than all-white juries, says Cornell University Law Professor Valerie Hans, co-author of “American Juries: The Verdict.” She says, “In general, the diversity of views strengthens the group's ability in fact-finding. Not only do they have different information and perspectives, they don't take other people's word for it. You have people really testing your claims.”