A broad survey on almost any topic is of interest to jury watchers, but a broad survey that's actually about juries is rare. So Deliberations has to stop the presses when Harris Interactive releases a major poll on juries and jury duty. The entire poll is interesting, but on Martin Luther King Day, the question you keep coming back to is the one that turns on race. White Americans trust juries far more than African-Americans do -- a fact as unsurprising as it is sad.
Who comes to jury duty?
There are lots of findings here about who really serves on juries:
[W]hile two-thirds (65%) of Americans have been called to serve jury duty, two-thirds of that (68%) actually attended, leaving one-third (32%) who did not. Of those who have attended jury duty, just over half (55%) have actually served on a jury. Bringing this back to the population as a whole, a plurality of Americans (44%) has attended jury duty and one-quarter (24%) has actually sat on a jury.
You're more likely to have been summonsed, as they say, if you live on one of the coasts, but more likely to actually serve if you live in the South. More men show up than women, "most likely due to the 'motherhood exemption' almost all states have," and educated people are less likely to serve. (Amazingly, Drug and Device Law Blog this very day wished that someone would research whether plaintiffs' lawyers strike educated jurors as a matter of strategy. Here's a start.)
Are juries fair?
All that is interesting, and in some trials it might be really helpful to know, but the riveting question here is the one about fairness. “How often do most people who are on trial have a jury that is fair and impartial?” the researchers asked -- and the answer depended on the race of the person they were talking to. Sixty-three percent of white respondents said either "all the time" or "most of the time." Only 37% of black respondents chose one of those answers, and 14% of the rest chose "rarely" or "never."
We all dream of a courtroom where every person confidently expects fairness from an impartial jury. That dream is not reality yet.
(Drawing by "medium as muse" at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_mckeague/362318943/; license details there.)