Exclusion of Black Jurors Highlights a Problem in St. Louis Justice System
In light of the recent Ferguson shooting incident of Michael Brown, an African-American teenager, and the ensuing riots, St. Louis and the surrounding communities remain to be all the more sensitive to the deep color divide.
This has become very apparent in one case where three black jurors were excused from serving, and were replaced by white jurors. Andre C., the defendant on the case, was subjected to the all-white jury, which later sentenced him to the death penalty in 2001.
More than 60 advocates pushed for the governor to stay the execution, which had been set for April 14, 2015. Their pleadings fell on deaf ears, however. Four petitions had been brought up to the courts on behalf of Andre. Yet, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the stay and Andre was later executed on that day.
Why the divide?
Race relations is on the tip of everyone’s tongue in Missouri, and spreading nationwide. With a police force and criminal justice system that leans heavily towards leaving the blacks of the city at a disadvantage, this is a stark, very real problem. St. Louis has a higher population of blacks in the city itself, whereas whites make up the majority of the entire state.
Here is the percentage breakdown:
- St. Louis: 47.9% black; 46.4% white
- Missouri: 11.7% black; 83.7% white
Here is one quote taken from an article, “ The Gangsters of Ferguson,” written by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
“One should understand that the Justice Department did not simply find indirect evidence of unintentionally racist practices which harm black people, but "discriminatory intent”—that is to say willful racism aimed to generate cash. Justice in Ferguson is not a matter of "racism without racists," but racism with racists so secure, so proud, so brazen that they used their government emails to flaunt it.”
Is there a way to resolve the tension?
The inherent problem in the criminal justice system has reached an all-time low. Ferguson, once a thriving middle class suburb in the 1990’s, has become an area that is now predominantly black and living well below the poverty line. Blame deep economic shifts, scarce job prospects, and rising costs due to inflation have most certainly changed the demographics within the city itself, this contributing greatly to the pervasive racial tension.
What does this mean for lawmakers and litigators? It becomes all the more crucial for criminal defense attorneys in St. Louis to not only be aware of the not only be aware of that, but also be sensitive to the matter. The Hammer Law Firm, PLLC prides itself as a firm that seeks to fully represent the interests of the disadvantaged sectors of society to help maintain a clear reputation. Because we are facing a problem that not only affects our city and our state, but our entire country as a whole.