Is There a Such Thing as <i>White Guilt</i> Jury Nullification?
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February 10, 2010, 08:10 PM
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For years we`ve been regaled with stories of the evil "all-white jury" that either 1) acquits a white defendant accused of wrongdoing against a black (or Hispanic) victim, or 2) convicts a black defendant out of bloodthirsty, blind racism. Media reaction to the Shenandoah case is a good example.[NCLR EXPRESSES DEEP DISAPPOINTMENT WITH SHENANDOAH VERDICT]

More recently, we`ve become acquainted with black jury nullification, where black juries acquit black defendants — despite proof of guilt — because "too many young black men are in jail." Even one former black federal prosecutor approves of it.

Sometimes, defense lawyers slyly suggest acquittal on grounds of their client`s race.[In Jury Rooms, Form of Civil Protest Grows By Joan Biskupic Washington Post,February 8, 1999]

I have a budding theory of my own I`d like to throw out there. Could there be a such thing as "white jury nullification?" Or "mixed-race jury nullifcation"?

It happens this way: a black criminal defendant is on trial. The jury is either white or mixed-race. The evidence is good.

But the verdict comes back "not guilty".

Infamously, this happened with the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

It happened with a black defendant in Boston who was acquitted, then re-arrested for another murder:A jury and the jeers, By Yvonne Abraham, The Boston Globe, February 4, 2010

(Local sources tell me that the jury was mixed-race).

I propose that what happens is that white jurors don`t want to be seen — by each other, or by non-whites — as "racist." So, they vote to acquit. I suspect that none of this ever comes up for discussion in the jury room — it`s just such a powerful social current that it doesn`t need discussion. The prosecutors "didn`t make their case" or "there wasn`t enough evidence" they tell themselves, and each other. They`ll talk openly of other reasons for doubt, but of course never say "Well, I`m white, and the defendant is black. I don`t want the rest of you to think I`m a racist. After all, that`s a worse crime than what the defendant is charged with."

I`ve never served on a jury myself, but if anyone`s got either statistical or anecdotal evidence to support my theory, I`d love to hear it.