Race, Social Class, Jury Participation: New Dimensions for Evaluating Discrimination in Jury Service and Jury Selection
Journal of Criminal Justice, 1996, 24:71-88
18 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2015
Date Written: March 23, 1996
The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the racial background of prospective jurors as an important dimension for evaluating jury participation. Recent Supreme Court decisions, however, have downplayed the importance of other relevant achieved status considerations, such as income and occupational standing, and the Court has yet to give social class "cognizable" status in evaluating the fairness of the jury selection system. The main thrust of this article is to examine whether jurors' social class status is equally as important as jurors' racial and ethnic characteristics in explaining disproportionate representation on jury panels. The research site is Orange County, California. Probit modelings are the analytic methods used. The analysis reveals that jurors' social class backgrounds are important determinants of jury participation, perhaps even more than racial and ethnic considerations of unrepresentative juries. The findings suggest that the analysis of jury representation based on a single criterion, such as race, does not delineate the true extent of discrimination in jury selection. For example, when jurors' social class backgrounds were incorporated into the analysis of jury participation, jurors' social class positions, measured by their occupational prestige, annual income, and managerial authority at the work place, exerted greater influence than race in explaining disproportionate jury representation. Similarly, when both the race and social class of jurors were simultaneously analyzed, African American and Hispanic prospective jurors with higher incomes and jobs of greater prestige were systematically overrepresented on jury panels. Since jurors' race and social class positions together provide a more comprehensive view of disproportionate jury representation by various segments of community populations, future Supreme Court decisions need to take both race and social class factors into consideration in order to evaluate unrepresentative juries and to assess the extent of systematic discrimination in jury selection.
Keywords: jury selection, supreme court cases, racial discrimination, lay participation in the justice system
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