13 February 2016

Selected Facts About Race and Juries in England and Wales

In England and Wales, there is a widely exercised right to a jury trial in serious felony prosecutions, but jury trials are almost completely absent from civil cases (eminent domain and defamation cases are two of the main exceptions) and misdemeanor cases.  England and Wales have a unified court system without a separate federal and regional set of trial courts, and criminal jury trials are restricted to the Crown Courts which have jurisdiction over felony cases and appeals from the inferior criminal courts called Magistrate's Courts (appeals of misdemeanor convictions are generally resolved in two to three months).

When there is a right to a trial by jury, it bears a strong similarity with its American offshoot, down to a great many fine particulars, but there is not a prohibition on using preemptory challenges to remove non-White jurors from a jury panel as there is in the United States.
[R]acially mixed juries are only likely to exist in courts where Black and Minority Ethnic groups (BME) make up at least 10% of the entire juror catchment area. 79% of the Crown Courts in England and Wales will not meet this criterion. . . . 
The main factor affecting disparities in jury service . . . were the high residential mobility of BME groups. . . . 
Only 20 Crown Courts in England and Wales have a BME population of 10% or more, and of these 12 are found in London, where 45% of the non-White population live. Nonetheless, catchment areas which have fewer than 10% minority members overall may have significant clusters of BME members, sometimes amounting to nearly 30% of the population of an area. . . . 
Most jury trials in England and Wales result in a verdict, and 64% of those verdicts are convictions. . . . 
[T]he term BME . . . as in much usage in the UK, refers to non-White ethnic groups and generally, though not exclusively, to people of Indian or Pakistani origin.
From Lever, "Democracy, Epistemology, and the Problem of All-White Juries" (November 19, 2015).

* The non-white population of England and Wales is extremely geographically concentrated in London and a few other major municipalities.

* Most often mixed race juries in England and Wales outside of London have just one non-white member.

* The predominant minority members, South Asians who are immigrants or children or grandchildren or immigrants, would not generally be considered a population that faces serious discrimination in the United States (relative, for example, to predominately below average socio-economic status African-Americans, non-Cuban Hispanics, Native Americans and Southeast Asians).  But, this is, in part, a product of U.S. immigration laws that assure that South Asian immigrants in the U.S. are predominantly affluent technocrats or businessmen.

* Still, BME individuals, in general, both South Asian and non-South Asian, tend to be more successful on a variety of socio-economic indicators (e.g. educational attainment) than whites in England and Wales. This may help to account for the findings of a small 2010 study conducted using several dozen mock juries that found that all white juries do not in practice discriminate in a statistically discernible manner against BME defendants.

* Conviction rates in British criminal jury trials are much lower than in comparable U.S. criminal jury trials according to the cited source above.  But, Wikipedia cites contrary statistics:
For 2012, the US Department of Justice reported a 93% conviction rate. . . ."In recent years, the conviction rate has averaged approximately 84% in Texas, 82% in California, 72% in New York, 67% in North Carolina, and 59% in Florida." The Crown Court has a conviction rate of 80%, according to the BBC.
Very few federal criminal cases go to trial (with about 95% being resolved by plea bargains instead), and very few federal grand jury indictments requested by prosecutors of people other than law enforcement officers and celebrities are rejected (far less than 1% and probably less than 0.1%).  In all, more than 99.5% of people charged with crimes by federal prosecutors are convicted of something, and the sentencing penalty for not plea bargaining is usually very severe.  Less than one in 200 people charged with a federal crime in the U.S. are acquitted of all charges.

Indictment rates in U.S. states that have grand jury requirements (they tend to be lower in the South and approach 99% in the Northeast), preliminary hearing dismissals in states where preliminary hearings are held, and plea bargaining rates all differ significantly from state to state (although plea bargains resolve 90% or more of cases in most states).  In general, it isn't obvious what is driving the wide disparities between the criminal jury trial conviction rates above (which omit the two states that do not require unanimous juries in criminal trials).

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