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Jury System on Trial

Jury selection in the Derek Chauvin trial began this week. Racial bias in the selection process could impact the trial’s outcome.

About this episode:

This week, jury selection began for the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former police office charged in the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer.

Juries hold tremendous power in our legal system. They determine who lives, who dies, and who goes free. The right to a jury of our peers is enshrined in the Constitution, guaranteeing us all the right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” And yet, juries in America remain overwhelmingly white, even in cases with Black victims and defendants. The Equal Justice Initiative found that white juries spend less time deliberating outcomes, consider fewer perspectives, and ultimately, make more errors.

Will Snowden is watching closely; he’s a New Orleans criminal justice advocate and founder of The Juror Project, an advocacy group dedicated to building fair and representative juries. He walks us through the challenges of building a fair jury in such a high-profile case.

And Trymaine Lee speaks with Charlene Cooke, the sole Black juror on the trial for Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, charged with murdering Laquan McDonald in 2014. She talks about what it was like to be the only Black person in the room.

Editors’ note: This episode incorrectly named the source of the video that captured the Laquan McDonald shooting. The piece has been updated to properly identify the video as police dashcam footage, not cell phone video.

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