Racism will always exist.
It will continue to exist so long as humans live as it is natural to differentiate and stereotype.
Not all stereotypes are harmful, and not all forms of racism are excessively harmful, but this is not the case in the 1987 trial of Timothy Foster.
Foster was tried for the murder of Queen Madge White, a white 79-year-old woman, and was sentenced to death by the jury.
However, what is under scrutiny isn’t Foster’s crime—he confessed—but the all-white jury that presided over his trial in 1987.
Recently, documents of the peremptory challenges for the trial displaying blatant racism were discovered, and Foster’s attorneys are now arguing for a new trial.
Under the authority of peremptory challenges, attorneys can exclude possible jurors without cause. But this places too much power in the attorney’s hands to tip the scale of the trial in whatever direction they decide as they can choose to exclude people based on not only race, but any demographic that will be advantageous to the attorney.
As long as peremptory challenges exist, the integrity and decency of trials will always be questionable
Ideally, they should be used for an attorney’s intuition to screen out possible jurors that could be too influential to the entire jury and as such protect the integrity of the trial.
Like every ideal concept, it does not take on any form outside of a floating thought in the head.
“During jury selection, they highlighted each black prospective juror’s name in green—on four different copies of the jury list—and wrote that the green highlighting ‘represents blacks,’” wrote Mark Joseph Stern of Slate after reviewing the case. “Finally, the prosecution’s investigator ranked each black juror against the others—in case ‘it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors.’”
Quite obviously, black jurors were the last choice, or more accurately only a choice in case of an emergency as they ranked each person in case “it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors.”
How this document was even processed through the system without somebody noticing how astoundingly racist these comments are is just mind-boggling.
It almost seems like one sick joke.
Before Foster’s case, in the same year, a court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that a person could not be struck out from the jury due to race and they designed peremptory challenges to prevent racism.
It’s quite obvious how that worked out.
Less than even a year later, the law was already undermined and it continues to be abused to this day.
“The ugly truth about Batson is that it usually doesn’t make much difference to the makeup of a jury, wrote Garret Epps of The Atlantic. “Both trial judges and appellate courts often eagerly accept any proffered explanation as ‘race neutral.’”
With how ineffective the U.S. justice system already appears, peremptory challenges only serve to back up that statement.
The paper trail of peremptory challenges proves how simple it is to manipulate the justice system. All it takes are a couple of “race neutral”—read as cheap and hollow—words to justify possibly an entire demographic of people being dismissed from the jury by peremptory challenges.
The mere possibility of every jury being manipulated can compromise the integrity of every trial.
Each demographic should be as widely represented for the jury as possible. While juries do not have to resemble the United Nations, they should not be all-white, or all-black.
“Only 1 in 10 African Americans says blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment with whites in the criminal justice system,” reported Dan Balz and Scott Clement of The Washington Post. “In contrast, roughly half of all white Americans say the races are treated equally in the justice system and 6 in 10 have confidence that police treat both equally.”
Diversity in the jury is required as all humans are different. And despite how much society perpetuates sameness, people of different races probably may view certain situations through a different lens as they probably grew up in their own individual cultures.
While racism is an issue, the failure of peremptory challenges, and the lack of trust that can be placed into the legal system, is a much more important issue for everybody no matter their skin color.
After all, how can anybody be confident in justice system after learning about such a blatant manipulation of the system?
Isn’t the whole idea or peremptory challenges to remove people based off of intuition or simply a bad vibe so that those people may not skew the jury?
However, how it is used to selectively discriminate against certain parties in a way that likely drastically swings a case in one favor undermines the purpose of peremptory challenges: to uphold a fair and just trial.
While the idea of peremptory challenges to act as a check seems sound at first, in practice it is too conveniently manipulated and acts contrary to its purpose.
Ultimately, the restrictions should be heavily amended, or the whole concept should simply be reworked from the ground up altogether.