Racial Representation in Durham County Jury List

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2023-06

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Abstract

This research focuses on jury lists in Durham County. The July 2020 Durham Racial Equity Task Force (DRETF) report outlining Durham's most pressing racial equity issues has identified jury pool diversification as a top priority. Jury pools, and eventually juries themselves, are drawn from a master jury list. Master jury lists in North Carolina County courts are statutorily formed by combining the lists of registered voters and licensed drivers. Black and Indigenous, as well as other minoritized populations of color (BIPOC) citizens, are under represented in the two required source lists as compared to the general population and thus are under-represented in jury lists and juries (Randall et al, 2008). When race-based juror exclusion occurs, there are at least three major consequences: the courts are not meeting their constitutional obligation to try defendants by juries of their peers; non white defendants are disproportionately convicted; and community trust among non-white citizens in criminal-legal institutions decreases, which leads to diminished social cohesion. This study examined the two required source lists and the master jury list in Durham County to determine the degree to which they represent the racial and ethnic composition of the County's overall population. We found that White persons were over-represented in both the voter and licensed drivers lists and that Black and Hispanic/Latino persons were under-represented. We explored equity arguments and implementation capability to identify viable options for better cross-sectional representation on jury master lists. Three potential policies were examined to determine if they could improve racial/ethnic representation of the final master jury list: increasing the size of the master jury list by using additional sources that would likely contribute more non-White persons to the list; purposely selecting individuals on the raw master list for the final master list in proportion to their race categories in the general population; and using zip codes as a proxy for race by weighting the zip codes to select a more significant proportion of people from the most diverse zip codes in the County. All the policy alternatives presented administrative hurdles, but policies for increasing the size of the master list using existing statutory authority to access additional source lists, seem to have the greatest potential for making the master jury list more closely represent the population of Durham County.

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Brook, Douglas, and Jay Pearson (2023). Racial Representation in Durham County Jury List. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29360.

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Pearson

Jay A. Pearson

H. M. Foundation Associate Professor of Public Policy

Jay A. Pearson’s research, teaching and advocacy address how policy sponsored and structurally rooted social inequality influence the social determination of health disadvantage. A native of Hertford County North Carolina, Pearson’s early experiences in the rural agricultural south shaped and informed his professional interests. Pearson began his public health career as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras where he worked as a child survival health specialist training and evaluating midwives and local health workers.

Upon returning to the U.S. he worked as a health educator with the East Coast Migrant Health Project, later designing and implementing health and safety training for Spanish-speaking factory workers, pesticide safety training with a multi-ethnic farm worker population, and lead poisoning prevention in an impoverished urban community. Pearson served as assistant project director of an NIH-funded research study in which he was responsible for primary data collection in an ethnically diverse Detroit community.

Academically, Pearson moved from a model of individual behavior change in undergraduate studies at North Carolina Central University to one of community assessment and intervention during his masters’ work at the University of North Carolina. While pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Michigan, Pearson began to study the social determinants of population health. He is particularly interested in the health effects of conventional and non-conventional resources associated with racial assignment, ethnic identity, national origin, immigration, and cultural orientations.


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