Race, fairness, and jury selection


  • Deirdre Golash J.D., Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor of Justice, Corresponding author
    1. Law & Society, The American University
    • Department of Justice, Law & Society, The American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016-8043, USA
    Search for more papers by this author


The Supreme Court in recent years has made efforts to change the demographic composition of juries. These effects are in part explainable on the basis of fairness to prospective jurors; but the Court also suggests that the demographic composition of the jury is important to the fairness of the trial. In some respects fairness may be improved by a jury demographically close to the defendant, while in other respects it may be improved by a diverse jury or a jury representative of the community. These effects occur only if there are real differences among demographic groups; however, the existence of such differences precludes the simultaneous achievement of both types of effects. Further, random selection of jurors prevents the optimization of either set of effects. I conclude that recent changes in jury selection law do not improve the fairness of the trial process, but only the appearance of fairness.