Unconstitutional Racial Bias in Jury Selection?

SQ Attorneys

SQ Attorneys

The Washington Supreme Court has become an institutional leader in seeking to eliminate unconstitutional racial bias in our jury selection process. There is no better evidence of this than General Rule 37, which states in its Policy and Purpose section – “the purpose of this rule is to eliminate the unfair exclusion of potential jurors based on race or ethnicity.” The Supreme Court has also recently issued two relevant opinions on the subject – State v. Zamora and Henderson v. Thompson.

In Zamora, a criminal case, the high court applied the ‘objective observer’ standard. An object observer is one who is aware that implicit, institutional, and unconscious biases – in addition to purposeful discrimination – have influenced jury verdicts in Washington State. In Thompson, a civil case, the Supreme Court also applied the object observer standard and held that racism is endemic, and its harms are not confined to any place, matter or issue, whether they be raised in a criminal or a civil proceedings. Zamora and Thompson, along with GR37, serve notice that everyone involved in our litigation system has a moral, legal and ethical obligation to not only avoid purposeful discrimination, but also the very real propensity to evoke racial biases and stereo types in not only our jury selection process, but also the justice system as a whole.

SQ Attorneys is a Washington State criminal defense law firm comprised of two seasoned criminal defense lawyers, Greg Schwesinger and Saad Qadri. Although the firm does not support or otherwise condone criminal behavior, the criminal attorneys that make up the SQ team certainly realize that sometimes good people make bad choices or get caught up in a bad situations. Some crimes like DUI – for instance – don’t even include a ‘state of mind’ element – the government has simply legislated that certain behavior – regardless of the person’s intent or knowledge – is illegal. If you or a loved one is cited for a crime, regardless of the type, don’t despair, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney (like the ones that make up the team at SQ Attorneys) to assist you in navigating the criminal justice system. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 or (206) 441-0900.

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