Did you hear about this African-American man convicted of raping and killing a white woman?
The twist is that the jurors have been called back to testify about whether there was racial bias in the jury room. I find it interesting that the judge did not worry about the racial bias in the courtroom like when the prosecutor said, ‘this is what happens when a 200 pound black man beats up a woman.” Hmmm.
The article says: Almost everyone agreed that jurors occasionally referred to race while debating whether Mr. McCowen was guilty and that at least once, a black juror had accused a white juror of racism. But most said the references did not reflect bias. “The word ‘black’ was used numerous times” in the deliberations, said Taryn O’Connell, a white juror. “It was always used descriptively, just as it was in the courtroom.”
Ben’s book (hey look, I learned something new about how to make the blog work!) taught me how pervasive and blatant race is in the jury room. In fact, when I first read it, I thought, this is it! This has to be the end of the death penalty!
So lots of issues here — first, is there any appropriate way to use race in the jury room? And, is it OK for judges to call back jurors? Will this inhibit free and open deliberation? Ben — chime in if you are here.
One more thing — my friend and colleague, Shari Diamond is quoted in one of the articles. She’s one of the leading authorities on juries and maybe she will chime in.