background_fid.jpg
Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Crime, Law and Justice

Seattle's King County To Study Jury Diversity

King_County_Courthouse.jpg
Joe Mabel
/
Wikimedia bit.ly/1lAq6bh
File photo of City Hall Park and King County Courthouse in Seattle

King County, Washington, is more than 30 percent non-white. But juries in the state’s most populous county often don’t reflect that diversity.

Now, a study of jury demographics is planned for next year.

Ben Goldsmith is a King County public defender. This year, an African-American client of his was convicted of manslaughter by a jury that had no African-Americans on it. Goldsmith said it wasn’t just the jury that was lacking in diversity.

“In our jury pool of 200 people, only one of them was African-American,” he said. “And that person was excused for a hardship.”

Based on the county’s demographics, the jury pool should have had at least 12 African-Americans. Goldsmith said he sees this all the time.

“The jury pool really does not represent the actual demographics of the county,” he said.

Goldsmith pointed to a Duke University study from 2012 that showed all-white juries are 16 percent more likely to convict a black defendant.

Next year, King County Courts will undertake a study of jury demographics. Potential fixes could be simple: like sending reminder summonses to increase response rates.