During jury selection for a Brockton District Court trial, a juror was excused after she expressed her view that the criminal justice system is unfair to young Black men.

The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with several organizations, filed a supporting brief in Commonwealth v. Williams, arguing that prospective jurors should not be excluded from juries when they express the view that there are racial disparities across the criminal justice system. The brief was submitted on behalf of former Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine Hines, former U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner, Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan, and Northeastern Professor Jack McDevitt; in the brief, each of them express concern that they could be excluded from jury service if it were permissible to strike a juror for believing that the justice system is unfair to people of color.

In its brief, the ACLU of Massachusetts argues that striking a juror for expressing this view is improper for several reasons. First, it’s simply true that the justice system is unfair to people of color. Second, allowing trial judges to strike jurors with this view will disproportionately exclude black jurors, denying defendants’ jury trial rights and denying a class of jurors the opportunity to serve. Finally, upholding the exclusion of jurors with this view would compromise the fairness of, and critically undermine public confidence in, the jury system.

Attorney(s)

Matthew Segal and Jessie Rossman (ACLU of Massachusetts)

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