A Jury of My Peers, Right?

On the jury selection for Daniel Holtzclaw.

El Mundo | Allex Coles | November 6, 2015

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Yes, you are absolutely right.

In the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, currently charged with 36 counts of first-degree rape, sexual battery, indecent exposure, and stalking, you are absolutely correct. Holtzclaw’s trial began Monday, November 2, 2015, and every face on his jury was white. Eight men, four women, and twelve white faces, lined up ready to judge the very criminal transgressions of their peer.

In August 2014, Oklahoma City police officer, Daniel Holtzclaw, was arrested following a recent assault on an older black woman who quickly filed a reported with the details of her heinous assault. Holtzclaw had engineered a system for himself where he would target lower class, black women in his usual neighborhood of patrol. The officer would pull the women over for minor traffic infractions and then blackmail them into submitting to his sexual demands. Holtzclaw would take these women to random parking lots or keep them in the back of his car; he was even bold enough to force the women to take him into their homes, where he would then proceed to assault them.

For a long time, this worked: a lot of these women had legitimate reasons to fear authority, such as active warrants or being caught with drug paraphernalia, and Holtzclaw knew it.  Holtzclaw was able to manipulate these women by saying if they did what he wanted, he would not bring them in for arrest; the frightened women would then comply.

Holtzclaw’s alleged crimes are old news. Holtzclaw was released on a $500,000 bond that had been dropped from $5 million. The officer has since been enjoying the comforts of house arrest up until his trial despite the fact that one of his charges carries the weight of a life sentence. Fascinating how that worked out.

The question presently at hand is how does a jury like this get selected when a jury is supposed to be a demographically representative sample of a jurisdiction’s population?

Over 50% of Oklahoma City’s population is female, and 16% of the population is black.

Beyond that logistical roadblock, attorneys on both sides of the case have the ability to reject potential jurors in the jury selection process. People usually get turned away for having a particular relationship to the case or participants that would prevent them from being impartial in their considerations. The problem is this jury selection resulted in a group of jurors that are naturally less aligned with the actual victims, who were all black women. Three black men were selected for jury duty, but all of them were removed from the final jurors pool. It is safe to say that by eliminating these men, the jury will lack an important and potentially empathetic viewpoint during deliberation.

On the other hand, we have seen countless black persons convicted for crimes by all-white juries in cases where racial targeting did not actually play a significant role. Here, race is an obvious point of contention for the legal arguments in Holtzclaw’s case, but we have no black jurors.

You would think the racial composition of a jury wouldn’t matter when a juror’s only task is to work as a server of justice, but statistics published by the Oxford Journal show otherwise. In fact, the racial composition of a jury has a statistically significant correlation to conviction rates. Research shows that black men who are tried before all-white juries are convicted at a rate of 81% and white men tried by all-white juries are convicted 66% of the time, a 15% difference.

The presence of just one black individual on a jury trying a black man completely eliminates this racial bias effect.

Imagine what it would do in the converse, as is the case with Daniel Holtzclaw.

Holtzclaw is truly being judged by a jury of his peers—a jury of white peers (mostly male) who are expected to get justice for thirteen black women, if they do so find him guilty.

But thank God his constitutional rights are being honored.