In Georgia, prosecutors excluded every black prospective juror in a death penalty case against a black defendant, which the Supreme Court has agreed to review this fall. Some legal experts hope the court will use the case to tighten the standards for peremptory challenges of jurors, which have existed for centuries and were, until a 1986 ruling considered completely discretionary, says the New York Times. Reasons offered by Louisiana prosecutors for excluding blacks from juries have included: “They were young or old, single or divorced, religious or not, failed to make eye contact, lived in a poor part of town, had served in the military, had a hyphenated last name, displayed bad posture, were sullen, disrespectful or talkative, had long hair, wore a beard.”
In Louisiana's Caddo Parish, a new study found that prosecutors used peremptory challenges three times as often to strike black potential jurors as others during the last decade. That is consistent with patterns found earlier in Alabama, Louisiana and North Carolina, where prosecutors struck black jurors at double or triple the rates of others. “If you repeatedly see all-white juries convict African-Americans, what does that do to public confidence in the criminal justice system?” asked Elisabeth Semel, director of the death penalty clinic at the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. As police shootings of unarmed black men across the country have spurred distrust of law enforcement by many African-Americans, the new findings on jury selection bring fresh attention to a question that has long haunted the American justice system: Are criminal juries warped by racism and bias?