ORLANDO, Fla. — You have the right to a fair trial by a jury of your peers, but researchers argue your “peers” typically end up being mostly white.

  • Researchers find juries in death penalty trials mostly white
  • Legal expert: African American disproportionately excluded 
  • She argues potential solution is to have two separate juries 

Alisa Smith, Chair of the Department of Legal Studies at UCF, told Spectrum News that findings from the University of California in recent decades show African Americans are more likely to be disproportionately excluded from death penalty trials.

“You can’t exclude a juror based upon race, but you can exclude a juror based upon a belief or a perception that they can’t be fair and impartial,” Smith explained.

The findings show that as African Americans become more anti-death penalty, the likelihood of them being excluded in these trials as a juror increase.

The research is reflected in the triple-murder trial of Central Florida man Grant Amato, who is accused of killing his parents and brother. Ten people out of the 12 person jury are white, and the alternates are three white men.

The point of death qualification is to identify jurors who can be fair and impartial in deciding the ultimate punishment.

But Smith says it doesn’t always work that way.

“That question alone tends to bias a jury toward a group of individuals who are more likely to impose the death penalty,” she explained.

While there is no cookie-cutter solution, Smith argues that a potential solution is to have two separate juries — one for the trial and one for the penalty phase.