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Is it Racist?

Anonymous Harris County prosecutor AHCL, in a post that illustrates the need that she remain anonymous, wrote yesterday about African-American Jurors, Batson, and the D.A.’s Office. She said,

prosecutors are very much aware of the fact that probably every African-American member of a jury panel has been treated like crap at some point during his or her life by a member of law enforcement, or perhaps even a District Attorney’s office

and argued that

if a prosecutor is wary of an African-American potential juror, its going to be because that the prosecutor knows the lengthy history of wrongs committed against African-Americans by law enforcement. That prosecutor doesn’t want it to affect his case.

. . . therefore, the argument goes, it is appropriate, and not necessarily racist, for a prosecutor to use a peremptory challenge against a black potential juror because of his race.

How can the fact that the vast majority of black potential jurors have suffered at the hands of a concededly racist system justify excluding blacks from jury service? AHCL’s position seemed reasonable though worrisome to me at first glance, but on further reflection it’s flat-out wrong. A prosecutor has a duty to seek justice — a prosecutor can seek his idea of substantive justice (a conviction) but can’t forsake procedural justice to do so.

Regardless of the purity of the prosecutor’s intent, excluding blacks from jury service perpetuates systemic racism and that, no matter what the verdict, is unjust.



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