QUESTION: Can’t the judge or the opposing attorney make sure the jurors are of more than one race? I’m not saying they made a mistake, but when you have civil rights involved can’t somebody do something about the racial mix of the jurors? Now we have everybody up in arms over the jury – but it is after the fact.
ANSWER: The simple answer is actually no. The problem is that the process of picking or selecting a jury (called voir dire) is in reality de-selecting a jury. In other words, instead of picking the jurors that each side of the case want on a case, they actually strike or eliminate those that they do not want. Those potential jurors that are stricken have shown or indicated through their responses to questions in the jury selection process that they may have a bias towards or against one side of the case. In a criminal case like this one, the prosecution will strike those potential jurors who are less likely to find the defendant guilty, and the defense will strike those potential jurors who are more likely to find the defendant guilty. No strikes can be made based in whole or in part on the race of the potential juror, period.
The fact that this particular jury had no African Americans on it in no way means it was rigged or fixed, as that simply is not possible and does not happen in Harris County, Texas. It was an all white jury because of the people that showed up for jury duty, the random assignment of them to the court where that case was being tried, the random order given to the potential jurors that were in the group of jurors sent to that court for the jury selection process, and the bias that them may have shown towards one side or the other in this particular case. You see, every person called to jury duty is qualified to be a juror; not every person, however, is qualified to sit on a particular case because of their potential biases.
Lastly, every criminal defendant is entitled to a trial by jury before a jury of his peers. That means peers from his community. It does not mean persons of his same age, race, sex, social status, education, wealth, or religion.
The jury here rendered its verdict yesterday based on the evidence that it heard and saw in the courtroom, including the videotape that we all have seen many times. However, unless we had sat through the entire trial, heard and saw every piece of evidence, and observed the jury’s deliberations, we cannot know or appreciate how the jury reached its verdict. We can talk about it and second guess their verdict, but you can rest assured that nothing was or could have been done in this trial to rig or fix the jury so the officer would be found not guilty.