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The Jim Crow Jury

Posted by on Friday, October 19, 2018 in Articles, Volume 71, Volume 71, Number 5.


Since the end of Reconstruction, the criminal jury box has both
reflected and reproduced racial hierarchies in the United States. In the
Plessy era, racial exclusion from juries was central to the reassertion of
white supremacy. But it also generated pushback: a movement resisting
“the Jim Crow jury” actively fought, both inside and outside the
courtroom, efforts to deny black citizens equal representation on
criminal juries. Recovering this forgotten history—a counterpart to the
legal struggles against disenfranchisement and de jure segregation—
underscores the centrality of the jury to politics and power in the post-Reconstruction
era. It also helps explain Louisiana’s adoption of
nonunanimous criminal juries, which remain in use today.

The Jim Crow jury never fell. Over a century later, state-sanctioned
racial discrimination in jury selection remains ubiquitous,
and the racial composition of juries continues to shape substantive trial
outcomes. This Article examines over 13,000 peremptory strikes in recent
criminal trials in Louisiana and demonstrates that race continues to
drive the selection of jurors. Additionally, by examining the racial
breakdown of 199 recent nonunanimous verdicts, this Article provides
an unprecedented measure of how race enters into jury deliberations:
viewing the same evidence in courtroom settings, black and white jurors
regularly came to starkly different conclusions about guilt and

Thomas Ward Frampton