Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $636,038)
Despite decades of effort aimed at reducing racial disparities in the American legal system, racial minorities—Black individuals in particular—are overrepresented in prisons and among those falsely convicted, yet underrepresented on juries. Increased racial diversity on juries improves deliberation and reduces racial bias in jury decisions—yet prosecutors’ use of peremptory challenges is a primary mechanism for creating racial disparities on juries. We will test the impact of Arizona’s transformative step in trying to combat racial discrimination on juries by banning peremptory challenges. We will test the assumption that taking away attorneys’ ability to exclude people of color without cause will increase jury diversity. Our results will determine the effectiveness of this hotly debated change, which arguably represents the most revolutionary step in increasing jury diversity since the Supreme Court ruled in 1880 that states could not bar Black people from jury service.
In partnership with Arizona courts, we will test whether this structural change to the jury selection process alters how jury selection decisions are made and assess the consequences for racial diversity and bias on juries. This transdisciplinary, multi-method project will use several strategies to achieve this goal. We will analyze data on jury demographics and case outcomes before and after the peremptory challenge ban—taking into account case characteristics, such as race of the defendant. We will conduct quantitative coding of how attorneys and judges conduct voir dire before and after the ban, to test whether the way challenges for cause are argued and decided in court changes after the peremptory challenge ban in ways that mitigate the overall impact of the ban on jury racial diversity. Finally, we will conduct interviews with judges and attorneys who have participated in post-ban trials to determine whether the ban has impacted jury selection strategies, racial/ethnic jury composition and the fairness of jury trials. We will conduct multilevel models on court data, quantitative analysis of voir dire behavior, and qualitative analysis of interviews. We will test competing hypotheses regarding whether jury racial diversity will either (a) increase after the peremptory ban, or (b) not increase because attorneys shift their strategies to argue more to exclude racial minorities for hardship/cause—potentially based on racial correlates, such as negative experiences with law enforcement or living in high-crime neighborhoods. This project will produce many important datasets for future researchers’ use, as well as dissemination to legal professionals. academic audiences and publication outlets. CA/NCF
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