27 October 2016

Racial Bias on Juries

Last session the U.S. Supreme Court tackled the issue of racial discrimination in the selection process of juries. This session the Court will face questions about how to deal with racial discrimination among members of the jury itself. Kenneth Jost over at the Jost on Justice Blog provides a nice summary of the case:
Miguel Angelo Peña Rodriguez was convicted in 2007 of groping two teenaged sisters in a darkened bathroom at a Colorado race track. The evidence in the brief trial consisted of little more than the girls’ identification — first in a roadside “showup” and then in court. The defense lawyer challenged the identification on a variety of well recognized grounds. Peña denied the accusation and was backed up by a fellow Hispanic who said the two were together in one of the race track’s barns at the time of the offense.
      The jury deliberated for 12 hours before convicting Peña of three misdemeanor counts but acquitting him of a more serious felony charge. In juror interviews after the verdict, his lawyer gathered affidavits from two members of the jury that one of the jurors had made a number of blatantly racist statements during deliberations about Peña and his alibi witness. None of the jurors had volunteered any racial prejudices during jury selection.
Reuters has more about how the Justices reacted to this case during oral arguments earlier this month.

24 October 2016

The Interactive Constitution

Readers of this blog will know or soon come to know that one of my favorite websites is the one published by the National Constitution Center. Not only is the site a wealth of information run by an important and worthwhile organization, it also provides people interested in the U.S. Constitution with tools to help them understand the history and meaning of the text. For at least a portion of my students this semester, getting a grip on the meaning of this text will be critical to performing sufficiently in class. As a study aid for my U.S. Constitutional Law courses students can do no better than download the Interactive Constitution app from the National Constitutional Center's website. Many of my lecture slides now link to content found in the interactive constitution. Having it handy on your "Handy" will make understanding what we discuss in class a whole lot easier.