Peremptory challenges in the NY Times
It should be pointed out that the Supreme Court approves of our adversarial criminal justice system in which the prosecutor tries to get a conviction and the defense attorney tries to get his client acquitted. Within that scheme, peremptory challenges are considered perfectly constitutional with respect to the rights of the defendant because both sides are allowed to reject jurors they think would be biased against their side.
The Batson case held that it was the jurors’ rights which were being violated because the black jurors were being unfairly denied the right to serve on a jury! Isn’t that funny? Most people try to avoid jury duty. (Although I wanted to get on a jury because my employer was paying my salary and the job sucked; serving on a jury would have been a lot more fun for the same salary. But I wouldn’t have been so excited about it if I were a freelancer or a business owners.)
Going back to the article, however, the article actually demonstrates that to the extent that prosecutors are violating Batson to exclude black jurors, they are acting perfectly rationally because the article presented statistics which show that the more black jurors there are, the more acquittals there are. The article portrays this as being unfair to blacks, however the truth of criminal justice is that something like 98% of defendants are actually guilty, and juries do a pretty bad job of sorting out the 2% who aren’t. (When I had an internship at the prosecutor’s office in Phoenix, they told me that every defendant was guilty because the job of the prosecutor is to represent the interests of the public and not to put innocent people in prison, but I think that’s not always the case, so I made up the 98% number.)
Because the victims of black criminals are usually black as well, prosecutors using peremptory challenges can be seen as bringing justice for victimized blacks rather than unfairly discriminating against factually guilty black criminals. But that’s not how the NYT chooses to spin it.
A much better argument for drastically reducing the number of challenges allowed, both for cause as well as peremptory ones, is because it’s incredibly inefficient to voir dire 75 prospective jurors in order to empanel 14 of them, which is what happened when I did jury duty in New York City. Everyone in the jury pool, regardless of their race or social class, appeared to be pissed off at the incredibly inefficient New York jury procedures. These shenanigans make regular people hate serving on jury duty. But this angle was completely ignored in the article.