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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/21/18

What 'jury of peers'? In Montgomery County, PA, It's Often a Jury of White People

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By Dave Lindorff


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I just had the experience of sitting on a jury in a criminal trial in the County Courthouse of Montgomery County, PA, a sprawling urban/suburban/rural region just north and west of Philadelphia.

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The first indication that something was amiss was when I entered the jury assembly room at 8:15 am on Monday. There were some 230 people there who had returned their jury questionnaires saying they met the basic qualifications to be jurors (US citizen, over 18, no felony conviction, etc.). But looking over the crowd of seated potential jurors, I could immediately see two problems: Most of us looked on the older side -- a lot of gray hair and not a lot of younger people -- and hardly anyone had darker skin.

With so many people crowded together it was hard to get a count, but I had a better opportunity when, an hour later, I was called up with 49 other people to go to Courtroom C as a group to be considered for the selection of 12 jurors and two alternate jurors for a trial on what turned out to be a road-rage assault case.

There in the ornate courtroom I had time to look over the whole assembled group, where I counted 47 white people and three blacks ( a man and two women). I didn't see anyone who looked obviously Latino, though there may have been some lighter-skinned Latinos. There were a few people who also appeared to be Asian.

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The troubling thing is that Montgomery County is 10% Black, 8% Asian and 5% Latino, according to census statistics as of 2017. Plenty of minority folks live in the county, but they're not showing up in the prospective jury pool or on juries.

When our panel was selected, and we were asked to go take our places in the jury box, we found that we were 14 white people. No surprise there. With so few representatives of other races in among the 50 assembled potential jurors, it would have been surprising if any of the few minority persons in the group had made it onto the panel. For one thing, in a closed door session the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney culled out a lot of the pool. Then they passed the remaining list of potential jurors back and forth horsetrading as they pared away the rest and settled on 14 of us"

To read the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the uncompromised, collectively run, six-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative news site, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net



 

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 
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