Dateline: July, 2011, Issue 3

Do minority jurors participate less in jury deliberations than White jurors?

Juries are becoming increasingly ethnically diverse in the United States. How much do non-Caucasian jurors participate in deliberations in comparison to White jurors, and does participation depend on how many minorities are on a jury?

Cornwell and Hans (2009) studied the participation levels of 2,306 actual criminal jurors who served on 311 juries in Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York and Washington, D.C. Through a special project of the National Center for State Courts, jurors completed questionnaires immediately before deliberations started and again after a verdict was announced or a mistrial declared. The researchers found that jurors of different races reported different levels of participation in deliberations.

Black jurors reported participating more in deliberations than jurors of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, including White and Hispanic jurors, regardless of the complexity of the case. This racial gap did not increase or decrease according to the type of criminal case being decided or the social status of other jurors. Hispanic jurors' reported participation did not differ significantly from that of White jurors.

Reported participation levels of Black and Hispanic jurors were unrelated to the proportion of non-White jurors on the jury, or the number of different racial and ethnic groups included on the jury.

Jurors' participation level in deliberations depended on the number of other jurors with whom they were in agreement. White and Hispanic jurors participated less when they agreed with the majority position on the jury. Black jurors' participation was less affected by the extent to which they shared the dominant opinion of the jury: Black jurors who were part of a 12-person faction had almost the same participation level as those who stood alone.

In sum, Black jurors participate more in deliberations than White or Hispanic jurors, and Black jurors' participation remains high regardless of whether they are in a minority of one or a majority of 12.

Source Cornwell, E.Y. & Hans, V. P. (2009, July 30). Contextualizing Jury Participation: Case-, Jury-, and Juror-Level Predictors of Participation in Jury Deliberations. Paper presented at the. CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies.