A jury made up mostly of people of color convicted former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger of murder and sentenced her to 10 years in prison — less than the prosecution wanted but more than many thought Guyger would get because she is both white and an officer.
Experts are saying that diversity in the jury contributed to a conviction and a sentence. The 12 jury members, plus four alternates, included seven Black members, five nonblack people of color and four white members. Twelve members of the entire pool were women, and the other four were men.
“Race and ethnicity influence our perceptions and judgment all the time in our daily lives,” Samuel R. Sommers, a Tufts University professor, told the Associated Press. “Nothing makes those biases disappear when we enter a jury room.”
Sommers also told the Associated Press that an all-white jury is more likely to convict a Black defendant, and more racially diverse juries make decisions differently than all-white juries. Research has found that people of color are woefully underrepresented in juries across the country, despite the U.S. moving toward becoming a majority-minority country.
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A 2015 report published by the American Bar Association titled “Lack of Jury Diversity: A National Problem with Individual Consequences,” demonstrated that across the country, nonwhites are consistently underrepresented on juries.
Attorney Ben Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice and is now representing the Jean family, told the Washington Post: “You have to get diversity [on juries], because you have to get people who understand ‘this could be my child, my niece, my nephew.’ Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, and for the past 400 years, black and brown people haven’t gotten the consideration of equal justice under the law.”