A Question Of Justice: Finding Black Jurors
In a federal judicial district whose population is more than 20% African American, fewer than 1 in 10 citizens who report for jury duty in Detroit's U.S. District Courthouse are black.
The issue is under increased scrutiny now because a well-known black businessman is on trial and his alleged partner in a massive kickback scheme, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is scheduled to go before a federal jury in September. As the Free Press writes, the prospect of all-white or mostly-white juries sitting in judgment of prominent African-American defendants has rekindled long-standing resentment and suspicion in the black community.
Late last week, U.S. District Judge David Lawson, the Clinton appointee presiding over the bid-rigging trial of Detroit contractor Bobby Ferguson, rejected Ferguson's assertion that his constitutional rights were violated when his jury was drawn from a pool that was less than 7% African American.
Acknowledging that blacks are frequently underrepresented in the Detroit jury pool, Lawson ruled that the process by which federal juries are selected was imperfect but not unconstitutional, and that Ferguson's trial -- by a jury that includes 10 whites and two blacks -- must go forward.