White juries are common because of racial bias. WA justices just took action

Lawyers are more likely to strike people of color from their jury selection, research shows, making juries more white. The effect of predominantly white juries is well documented.

Now Washington state’s highest court has adopted a new rule aimed at reducing this racial bias.

A 2012 study at Duke University found that all-white juries convicted black defendants 16 percent more often than white defendants. The study also found the gap was nearly eliminated when at least one member of the jury was black.

Experts say racially diverse juries spend more time deliberating, make fewer errors, and result in fairer trials than non-diverse juries.

In the past, the courts have allowed challenges if an opposing attorney suspects intentional racial discrimination. But Doug Honig, a spokesman for ACLU of Washington, said that wasn’t effective. It’s hard to prove, and attorneys have been reluctant to use it.

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Washington's "new rule actually lays out very specific examples of implicit bias, which are excluding jurors who have a close relationship with people who've been arrested, or convicted of a crime, or living in a high crime neighborhood, receiving state benefits, or not being a native English speaker,” Honig said.

Washington is the first state in the nation to adopt this rule. It takes effect at the end of the month.