The New Quo: A Conversation on the Fallacy of Stereotypes and the Importance of Jury Duty

"I had a particular experience my second year being a public defender. It was a trial involving a case where a client was charged with maybe two crack rocks and three pills. He didn't have a prescription for the pills, and obviously crack cocaine is an illegal substance to have. He had gone to trial before and lost on this very same case, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The case came back on appeal, as a result of something that's called Batson violation which tries to ensure prosecutors aren’t illegitimately removing people of color from the jury.

We went through the voir dire process, which is a conversation between the attorneys and the potential jurors that helps the lawyers learn about which people in the room would be a good fit to serve on the jury for their type of case. In that conversation, we got general background information from the jurors, and their perspectives on drug cases. When the jury walked in the room, one question that immediately came to my mind was, "Well, where are the black folks?" New Orleans is about 60% black, but we didn't have that representation for people that were walking into the courtroom to potentially serve on the jury for this case. It was frustrating to me. The only representation of people of color in the courtroom are unfortunately the majority of the people who are being charged with crimes, and we aren't getting a fair representation on the jury panels."