The Problem With Predominantely White Juries Deciding On Both Ahmaud Arbery And Kyle Rittenhouse Trials

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Kyle Rittenhouse, Ahmaud Arbery

Jury selection for both the Kyle Rittenhouse case and Ahmaud Arbery’s murder trial have an overwhelmingly high number of white people in the jury, which is not an unusual occurence.

In two of the most high-profile murder trials where race plays a huge role in the crimes committed, an all-whtie jury shouldn’t be the reality.

Teenager Kyle Rittenhouse is facing homicide charges after killing two people and injuring a third during an unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer that resulted after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer.

In Georgia, three white men, Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan, are on trial for the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was out on a jog.

The jury selection for the Arbery case lasted nearly two and a half weeks, after a mistrial almost happened because of leaked evidence that was easily accessible to members of the jury. 

RELATED: Ahmaud Arbery’s Mother Has Left Her Job To Attend Trial Of Son’s Accused Killers — How To Support Her

Jury for the Rittenhouse case were seated in just a day amid people in the jury fearing threats if they served.

Only one jury member who identifies as a person of color was selected to sit on the jury for the Rittenhouse trial, while a jury of 11 white people and one Black person was selected for the Arbery case–even though the judge himself made a comment that the jury selection appears to have involved “intentional discimination.”

It does seem peculiar that an all-white jury will be making a decision of justice for a white man that caused damages and took the life of a Black person. 

The process for selecting a jury has been criticized for being an imperfect system that leads to instances of an all-white jury.

There are many problems with all-white juries.

Juries are selected through a process called voir dire, where potential jurors are questioned and then eliminated through the use of “for cause” strikes and “peremptory challenges." 

A potential juror is eliminated for cause by expressing that they are unable to be fair and impartial. 

A pool of 48 potential jurors were initially considered for the Arbery case, out of the 48 jurors, 36 were white, and 12 were Black.

The selection of the jury reflected the racial makeup of Glynn County, where the trial is taking place, and where a quarter of the population is Black. 

RELATED: Why A Judge Refusing To Call People Kyle Rittenhouse Shot ‘Victims’ Sets A Dangerous Precedent For His Trial

A 1986 Supreme Court decision, Batson v. Kentucky, issued a ruling that attempts to protect the jury selection process from racial discrimination by allowing peremptory challenges to be called into question, if the other side believes that a potential juror was dismissed because of their race. 

In the Arbery case, the judge accepted the defense’s explanation of why they struck 11 Black jurors, and the case was allowed to move forward. 

For the Rittenhouse jury, the racial makeup of Kenosha County is 87% white residents and 7% Black residents. 

Though, the issue stems from the disproportionate rates that people are called into jury duty that distorts the true racial makeup of these communities.

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DMV records are used to find people for jury duty, which means that some races that are more likely to have a driver's license could be overrepresented.

The overwhelming white juries for both the Rittenhouse and Arbery cases is a grim reality for the possible outcome of these trials.

A study conducted by Patrick Bayer, and his research partners Shamena Anwar and Randi Hjalmarsson, found that an all-whtie jury can severely impact conviction rates.

The lack of inclusion of minority members of a local population on juries raises concerns about whether such juries can actually reach unbiased decisions.

Studies conducted have found that prosecutors have deliberately removed Black jurors at double or triple the rates of other people in states like Louisiana, Alabama, and North Carolina.

The jury should reflect the community, especially a community that was harmed by the merciless acts committed by the white perpetrators standing trial.

It’s hard to believe that the jury selection for the Rittenhouse and Arbery cases weren’t done with race in mind, and it’s hard to have faith in the justice system when it is undermined by a racially-unbalanced selection of jurors.

RELATED: Can Ahmaud Arbery's Mental Health Diagnosis Be Used In Court To Defend His Alleged Murderers?

Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.