Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System

Racial Justice

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) and McCarter & English filed an amicus brief in a case pending before the Massachusetts Court of Appeal, which raises important issues about bias in the criminal justice system. The brief was filed on behalf of LCR, the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys (MAHA), the Jewish Alliance For Law and Social Action (JALSA), and Citizens for Juvenile Justice.

The case involves the peremptory strike of a Puerto Rican juror who questioned whether the defendant (also Latino) could get a fair trial since the jury pool had few Latinos in it. The prospective juror also voiced a concern about a jury questionnaire that asked: “Do you believe that Dominicans or Puerto Ricans are more likely than members of other ethnic groups to commit crimes?” The prosecutor characterized his response to this question as “flippant.”

The amicus highlights why prospective jurors should not be disqualified from jury service because they express legitimate concerns about racial bias in the criminal justice system. The brief also discusses how decisions based on demeanor provide fertile ground for conscious and unconscious bias.

The brief if available here: