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Composing an Impartial Jury & Balancing Multi-Racial Representations sample essay

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to trial by jury in state court. This amendment makes the 6th and 7th amendments applicable to the states. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants a criminal defendant the right to a trial “by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed. ” The Seventh Amendment provides a similar right in civil cases. The United States Supreme Court has defined, an “impartial” jury as a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community in the district or division where the court convenes.

The framers of the constitution sought to create an independent judiciary and to protect the people against arbitrary action by that judiciary. The right to be tried by a jury of his or her peers safeguards a person accused of a crime against a corrupt or overzealous prosecutor and against a compliant, biased, or eccentric judge. The requirement of a jury chosen from a fair cross-section of the community is fundamental to the American system of justice; it plays a pivotal role in ensuring impartiality. The first step in the process consists of the creation and maintenance of a master list from which the jury pool is drawn.

This can include source lists such as voter registration, driver’s license, state income tax files, unemployment records, and public assistance rosters. The second step is the selection of the actual trial jury from the pool of citizens. Lastly is the instillation of the trial jury as a non-biased and fair representation of the defendant’s peers. Notwithstanding the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to an impartial jury, there are inherent flaws in the jury selection process. It is the second step that is most likely to be the downfall of the third.

Randomly selected pools of potential jury members do not always accurately represent the entire community. These randomly selected pools often under represent both racial and ethnic minorities. The American Bar Association works to promote justice, professional excellence, and respect for the law. In doing so it has a natural stake in the selection of fair jury pools. The ABA is the largest voluntary professional association in the world. They provide many important resources including programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.

In line with their standards for the ethical practices of jury trials, the ABA has established two goals in regards to the juror master lists. The first is inclusion of all eligible citizens. The second is representation of all portions of the community, These goals often prove difficult to accomplish in practice. This paper will focus on three aspects of a process, which together constitute the definition, selection, and empanelment of a fair and impartial jury. Lastly it will summarize these points and then suggest a model to aide in overcoming the shortfalls evident in the current systems.

Part I lays the foundation for what constitutes an impartial jury. Part II identifies general racial stereotypes jurors may hold about defendants and address the importance of combating those stereotypes to insure impartiality. Part III highlights the key players in the empanelment of an impartial jury and the need for collaboration among them during the voir dire process. The report will also discuss placing limits on the voir dire process, including the possibility of eliminating it all together. Part IV, the summary, proposes a two-point model that strives for both fairness and consistency.

The intent is to preserve the role of the adversary system in jury selection. This should strengthen the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of an impartial jury. I. DEFINING AN IMPARTIAL JURY The Sixth Amendment’s reference to an “impartial jury” has served as the basis for the broadly accepted definition of a jury composed of the defendant’s peers. Additionally, an impartial jury is one that will decide the case on the evidence and law given to them by the judge. This must occur even if they personally disagree with the law.

The process should be free from the bias of either prosecution or defense, and the jury members should represent the class, race, and gender scheme of the community where the defendant resides. Racial diversity within a jury has been a favored method in which to bring about impartiality and the idea of procedural fairness. This understanding is based upon the statement that “diversity on the jury enhances its ability to consider a variety of perspectives in evaluating the evidence at trial, that ability is reduced when juries fail to reflect the diversity in the community from which they are drawn.

” Although an adversarial process is an essential part of our legal system, the goal of empanelling an impartial jury may require more collaboration and less competition at the voir dire stage. A jury derived from a source that excludes certain people based on race is non-representative and thus unconstitutional. Racial, ethnic or other stereotypes can lead to bias and a lack of impartiality among the jury members. There have been several models used over the years to create a jury panel that accurately represents the community and offers impartial fairness.

The Blank Slate model and the Merger model are amongst them. The “Blank Slate” model assumes that all potential jurors arrive in court with no knowledge of the case, prior expectations, preconceived notions, or particular dispositions. The court instructed potential jurists to set aside all personal experience on entering the courthouse. However, courts and other social scholars soon realized that it was not only impossible, but also unproductive to use jurors with no opinions available to them, aside from those presented in the court.

It was recognized that “jurors come to the courthouse with a variety of beliefs and experiences, but assumes that each juror who is selected to decide the case will put aside any biases, group allegiances, or predispositions in order to decide a case impartially. ” This model was also contrary to the selection of a cross-section of the community, lacking both diversity and cultural identifications. The United States Supreme Court observed, “Impartiality is a group, rather than an individual, characteristic. ” This stance led to their approval of the Merger Model over the Blank Slate Model.

The Merger Model focuses on the requirement that the pool of jurors itself needs to be a cross section of the community. It attempts to balance the need for everyday experience with the desirability of a blank slate with regard to the facts of the case. This model recognizes that while individual jurors may not be able to be impartial, the exchange of viewpoints and opposing opinions in the jury room will result in an impartial jury. This balancing factor recognizes and respects the differences in jurist opinions, which stem from uncommon life experience, but allows impartial compositions based on the checks and balances of a group system.

Much as the ABA discovered concerning their stated goals, the model encouraged by the Supreme Court is more difficult to defend in practice than it is on paper. Opponents of the model argue that the courts can not achieve the selections of a representative cross section of the community. “A small sample of twelve or a few, even one that is randomly drawn, and particularly one that is molded by excused for cause and preemptory challenges, is unlikely to mirror the composition of the community on race, ethnic background, and gender. ” A.

The Venire The first step in composing an impartial jury is to ensure that the venire will draw from a cross-section of the community. Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “[w]hen any large and identifiable segment of the community is excluded from jury service, the effect is to remove from the jury room qualities of human nature and varieties of human experience, the range of which is unknown and perhaps unknowable. ” Washington State selects jurors’ names at random from voter registration and driver’s license and “identicard” records.

The use of voter registrations in the compilation of other states lists exclusively has created disparity. In a majority of other states, present jury selection procedures often result in juries composed predominantly of persons who are white, middle-aged, members of the middle and upper socioeconomic classes, and from suburban or rural areas. This results in the exclusion of African Americans, the poor, the young, and various other minority groups.

The disparity created by use of voter registration is especially clear in the numbers of minorities represented on the lists. The sole use of these records is therefore tantamount to willful systematic exclusion. According to a 1980’s voting and registration report completed by the Bureau of the Census, only 35. 5% of voting age individuals of Hispanic origin in the United States registered to vote in the 1988 presidential elections.

African Americans showed a higher rate of registration than the Hispanic population. However, in the United States they still had a lower registration percentage (64. 5%) than white voters (67. 9%). In areas where a sizeable minority population exists, as in California where the racial minorities together outnumber the total Caucasian population, voter registration lists are likely to be inherently under-representative of a minority populace.

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