In this Article, the authors look at jury selection from the viewpoint of citizens and voters, standing outside the limited boundaries of constitutional challenges. They argue that the composition of juries in criminal cases deserves political debate outside the courtroom. Voters should use the jury selection habits of judges and prosecutors to assess the overall health of local criminal justice: local conditions are unhealthy when the full-time courtroom professionals build juries that exclude parts of the local community, particularly when they exclude members of traditionally marginalized groups such as racial minorities. Every sector of society should participate in the administration of criminal justice.
This political problem starts as a public records problem. Poor access to records is the single largest reason why jury selection cannot break out of the litigator's framework to become a normal topic for political debate. As described in Part III, the authors worked with dozens of students, librarians, and court personnel to collect jury selection documents from individual case files and assembled them into a single database, which we call "The Jury Sunshine Project." The database encompasses more than 1,300 felony trials and almost 30,000 prospective jurors.
Part IV presents some initial findings from the Jury Sunshine Project to illustrate how public data might generate political debate beyond the courtroom. Part V explores the possible explanations for the racial patterns observed in jury selection. Some accounts of this data point to benign non-racial factors as the real explanation for the patterns observed. Other interpretations of the data treat these patterns as a new type of proof of discriminatory intent: evidence that cuts across many cases might shed new light on the likely intent of prosecutors, defense attorneys, or judges in a single case. A third perspective emphasizes the community effects of exclusion from jury service. Finally, Part VI generalizes from the data about the race of jurors to ask more generally how accessible public records could transform criminal justice. Sunshine will open up serious community debates about what is possible and desirable in local criminal justice systems.
2018 University of Illinois Law Review 1407-1442 (2018)
Wright, Ronald F.; Chavis, Kami; and Parks, Gregory S., "The Jury Sunshine Project: Jury Selection Data as a Political Issue" (2018). Faculty Publications. 2084.