WMU faculty uncovers racial bias in jury selection

Nov 7, 2019

Credit non-licensed

Researchers Whitney DeCamp and Elise DeCamp were first inspired to study racial bias among jury selection processes after listening to the second season of the American Public Media podcast In the Dark. In that season, journalists investigate the case of Curtis Flowers. A Black man who was tried six times for the murder of four people in Winona Mississippi in 1996. 

“And several of those times he was found guilty and they were later overturned on appeal because of the prosecutors using race to try and dismiss Black prospective jurors from the juries.” 

That’s Western Michigan University sociology professor Whitney DeCamp who studied whether race played a factor in the jury selection process of 89 different trials and DeCamp says their teams’ findings showed racism.

“It was about 10% of white prospective jurors that were removed versus 46% of black prospective jurors.” 

In the case of Flowers, the times he was tried by an all-white jury he was found guilty, but in the times when the jury was more diverse the trials ended in a hung jury or mistrial.  

“Artificially changing the makeup of the jury like this can lead to more convictions and presumably convictions where there shouldn’t be some.”

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.