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Racist Practice That Excludes Black Jurors from Death Penalty Cases

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

The Americ Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging the practice of excluding Black jurors from death penalty cases, which is known as death qualification. This practice dictates that to serve on a death penalty jury, a prospective juror must be willing to impose the death penalty. Source

Black people are more likely to oppose the death penalty, and as a result, are disproportionately excluded from death penalty juries. This exclusion is a manifestation of the racial bias embedded in our criminal legal system and goes hand in hand with mass incarceration.

Leo Jones, a Black man, was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white Florida jury in 1982 for the killing of a white police officer. Despite the serious doubts around Mr. Jones’ conviction, the state of Florida executed him in 1998 by electric chair. Mr. Jones’ case is emblematic of pervasive issues in death penalty cases.

Juries are an integral part of our justice system. One of the first lines of defense against miscarriages of justice is a diverse, representative jury which is much more capable of fairly weighing evidence, holding the government to its high burden, and protecting the rights of those accused of crimes than an all-white jury. Juries are meant to represent the community’s conscience. However, in death penalty cases, juries are rigged to be more conviction-prone, friendlier to the prosecution, and to exclude Black community members. Source

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