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Jury selection methods are the subject of criminal appeal

Four people were murdered in a Mississippi furniture store in 1996. A man was arrested and tried for murder. After six trials, the case is on appeal again. Since the issue on appeal revolves around racial bias in jury selection, a decision may affect criminal cases in Texas as well.

Previous convictions were overturned on appeal due or resulted in a hung jury. One conviction was overturned for jury bias, when the prosecutor dismissed 15 African Americans from the jury pool. The present case contains the same issue. According to researchers, the district attorney in question has a long habit of dismissing African Americans from the jury pool when the defendant is black.

Attorneys selecting a jury have two methods of dismissing a juror. The first is for cause. In these instances, the juror may be prejudiced, have a personal relationship with a party or other form of potential bias. The other method is through a peremptory challenge, where no reason is given.

The U.S Supreme Court has ruled that an attorney cannot use a peremptory challenge simply due to the juror's race. A case of racial bias must be proven by showing a higher percentage of challenges for jurors of one race. Here, five African Americans were dismissed. This number, plus the prosecutor's history, is sufficient to show bias, according to the defendant.

Jury selection is a crucial aspect when preparing for a criminal trial. An experienced criminal attorney knows that a jury can make or break a case and will attempt to weed out biased jurors through questioning.

Source: Star Tribune, "Supreme Court to hear case on racial bias in jury selection", Jeff Amy and Mark Sherman, Associated Press, March 19, 2019

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