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Study find Blacks and Latinos are underrepresented in jury pools

CRAIG D. FRAZIER Special to the AmNews | 12/26/2012, 1:43 p.m.

New York State's Office of Court Administration (OCA) released a yearlong data collection effort on the state's jury pools. The report points to an underrepresentation of African-Americans and Hispanics in jury pools in some New York jurisdictions.

The report and study are the result of state legislation. The Jury Pool Fair Representation Act (A.2374/S.2613), introduced by Assembly Members Rory Lancman and Hakeem Jeffries and State Sen. Jeff Klein, was passed into law in 2010. It requires that jury pool demographic data be recorded in order to determine whether jurors in New York State represent a fair cross section of the community.

New York is a recognized leader in implementing procedures designed to increase jury participation. New York meets every standard that has been recommended for maximizing jury representation by the American Bar Association and the National Center for State Courts.

As of Oct. 10, 2011, the statewide-automated Jury Management System reported that 491,382 jurors had served between Sept. 13, 2010, and Sept. 9, 2011. Seventeen percent of those jurors were Black.

"OCA's unprecedented demographic survey shows that some New Yorkers are less likely than others to be tried by a jury of their peers," said Lancman. "I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature, bar leaders, community representatives and OCA to develop and implement strategies for making our juries fairly representative of the communities they hail from."

Report findings on juror demographic data in specific counties in New York State indicate a discrepancy between jury pool members identified as African-American or Hispanic and their respective representation in the general population.

In Queens, the representation of Hispanics in jury pools was 35 percent lower than their representation in the general population. Those surveyed in Queens who self-identified as "Other" were underrepresented by 41 percent. In addition to Queens, Hispanics were underrepresented by 39 percent in Nassau, 22 percent in New York, 47 percent in Suffolk and 45 percent in Westchester counties.

"Everyone deserves the same shot at justice," Klein said. "We must examine the findings of this report and make the necessary changes to ensure that our court system upholds our values in every community across New York State."