African American Jurors Not Significantly Underrepresented, Report Shows

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The University of Illinois College of Law and the League of Women Voters released the 2010-11 Courtwatching Report of observations made in Champaign County courtroom proceedings. The report covers the period from September 1, 2010 through December 1, 2011, during which time 45 total trials were observed. The courtwatching program, one of the longest standing in the state, provides a comprehensive review of court proceedings and personnel, with a particular focus on jury trials.

Highlights of the report include:

  • For the first time in the program’s history, the number of expected African-American jurors is not significantly underrepresented, even while white jurors are still over-represented in jury pools and seated juries.
  • For the first time, the number of African-American females in the jury pool almost precisely met statistical predictions. (24 African-American females were present for jury duty, while 25 would have been expected.)
  • In 84.2% of the observations, court personnel were reported to be very or somewhat respectful; in 15.8% of the observations the court was observed being neutral. There was not one observation of court personnel reported to be disrespectful.

A snapshot of the 2011 observations shows about defendants that:

  • 75.8% of reported defendants were male; 10.1% female
  • 52.5% were African-American; 29.3% Caucasian; 3.0% were Hispanic/Latino; 2.0% were Asian; 13.1% were undetermined race
  • 55.1% of observations were felonies; 27.6% were misdemeanors; 4.1% were traffic/petty offenses; 13.3 %were other charges.

The Courtwatching Report has revealed significant trends in the Champaign County courts and provided concrete suggestions involving courtroom proceedings, jury selection, and courtroom functions that have resulted in several initiatives to examine possible explanations and the implementation of improvements to produce more representative juries.

The full report