THE DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV BOSTON BOMBING CASE ISN’T REALLY ABOUT RACE PER SE, BUT IT RAISES INTERESTING ISSUES THAT PERTAIN TO MINORITIES AND JURY SELECTION
I have handled numerous murder trials- many where the defendant was black
A defendant’s race, religious beliefs, and ancestral background are essential because some studies have shown that people who are white, or are adverse to a particular faith, are likely to wish harsher consequences on those who are different from them; it is a type of exclusionary thought process; you are kinder to those who are similarly situated to you. The feelings can be so strong that in cases where the defendant’s last name sounds foreign, some people hope he is not white. But fortunately, in those cases where the defendant is a minority, the prosecutor denies him equal protection of the law when he puts him on trial before a jury from which members of his race have been purposely excluded.
Many studies try to figure out ways on how to avoid discriminatory practices that occur during a criminal trial. I have handled numerous murder trials- many where the defendant was black. For years, I reviewed the legal and psychological literature attempting to pinpoint the precise questions to ask potential jurors so that I could ferret-out likely racially-minded folk- or at least, those who might tend to apply the exclusionary thought process. I learned to ask white prospective jurors questions like: If your daughter went off to college and returned with her new fiancé (who was black) who she had met that semester, would you have any problem with the couple’s plans? My secret key guide told me to look for responses that focused on race such as “No, I think people of any race can fall in love and be happy,” etc. – versus “I think they should date longer, finish college,” etc. The first response is kind of like the “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” quote- too defensive. My handy guides told me to select jurors who were practically concerned about the recentness of the plans and the typical issues/problems associated with such marriages- the second response was the best. I always impressed myself when I asked such questions that only I knew the correct answer to. The problem was, none of this worked; I found out that a prospective juror who wanted to be on the jury, always seemed to know what to say. I also discovered that leaving a black juror on the panel only because he/she was black, wasn’t the answer either. The last time I did that, the jury hung-up 11/1 for not guilty- I found out the sole voter for conviction was the black juror I left on- turns out, he was frightened by gang activities that had been going on around his residence. I have since learned that the best approach is to treat all jurors without race in mind (unless something self-evident is present), look them in the eye and harp on Constitutional principles such as beyond a reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence. Jurors can sense a lack of sincerity.