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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect - Object Anyway

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 06:00 PM

(Photo Credit: Mitch Boyer)
At the trial of James Batson in 1982, the prosecution eliminated all the black jurors from the jury pool. Batson objected, setting off a complicated discussion about jury selection that would make its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. On this episode of More Perfect, the Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to prevent race-based jury selection, but may have only made the problem worse.
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Comments [21]

Greta Hyland from Utah

I am coming into this series late I think but the first question I had was: If the Supreme Court ruled that a jury had to represent the demographics, then why can't they state that if four black jurors are removed, they have to be replaced by four new black jurors? It seems to me that the crux shouldn't necessarily be discrimination, but representation. Any thoughts on that? Sorry if others have already commented to this effect.

Mar. 11 2018 11:19 PM
Mom from Nk


Jan. 10 2018 07:44 PM
Shelly from Houston, Texas

Nothing that he could ever do in his entire life other than reversing his stance on "Black Female Jurors" will ever make me think of Joe Gutmann as anything more than a racist at heart.

I have two degrees and I self volunteer for juries (city and County) and I've never been chosen. Not once in 10 years. Now I know why. Thanks Joe!

P.S. I was taught in school by female Klan members and members of DOC.
You are responsible for the things that you do professionally.
Especially when they effect millions.

Apr. 07 2017 10:22 AM

"That's not the way life is." Is the single least liberal response you can give, by definition. That prosecutor is outright lying, either to the microphone or to himself.

Mar. 06 2017 10:46 PM
Listen from America

Man commits crime. I listen to an hour long podcast about why man shouldn't have been convicted of said crime...

Jan. 31 2017 04:00 PM

One wrinkle in this whole story of excluding black jurors is this plan:

I understand that Elie Mystal, this racist piece of excrement who advocates black jurors vote to acquit anybody for crimes (including murder and rape) of white people, is affiliated with your podcast. You should fire him immediately! There should be no place on RadioLab or WNYC for such blatant and overt racism!

Jan. 06 2017 05:19 PM
Bob from Virginia, Mn

Great program. One issue missing here is the emphasis of the trial. Is it to get a conviction or to determine guilt/innocence? Most prosecutors are all about the win, not the guilt. This directly affects the jury selection as shown here. If the prosecutor is truly interested in guilt first, then why not allow anyone on the jury. If you can't convince a black juror of a black defendants guilt, then mayabe you have a weak case, so lessen the charge. The judge carries his/her own biases and history. That leaves only the defense to protect the accused. As the Innocense Project has shown, many persons are convicted that aren't guilty. Our system is flawed in many ways. Maybe we need to switch to the Napoleanic Code instead.

Dec. 23 2016 06:22 PM
Brian from Vienna, VA

Got home after listening to this episode on my commute to find my wife watching Law & Order (S14:E22, "Gaijin"). They were in the midst of juror selection and the attorney dismissed all of the black jurrors. I looked at my wife and said, "He should object, that's a possible Batson rule violation." Sure enough the other lawyer did and my wife gave me the crazy 'When did you go to Law School?' look. Thanks for the opportunity to drop another Radiolab knowledge bomb!

Dec. 23 2016 04:47 PM
Debbmo from 48104

Great program guys! Highlights nicely how complex the task of living together in peace and fairness is for tribal human beings. Marshall was only partly right... we can't fix any of this with by striking or adding an law or ruling. This is about hearts and minds. Only common experience and understanding can bring us closer to eliminating bias (on anything, not just race!) ...and even then we'll need to ever-vigilant. We are pack animals and it's the nature of our mammal selves.

Dec. 11 2016 04:25 PM
MP from Salt Lake City

What is the Supreme Court case that is up for decision?

Thank you for highlighting this area of the legal system! Well done!

Dec. 08 2016 11:53 AM
Alex emery from Everett wa

Hey genius. The fix is a "blind" jourey pick. The pickers don.t need to see anyone. They need to HEAR them. Duuuu

Dec. 08 2016 09:53 AM
Leslie from Florida

Thank you for this cast and shining a brighter light on the inherent institutionalized racism that continues to plague us as a society! A jury of our peers should actually be our peers, race included. Most people aren't aware of their biases. The only way to be fair would be for the jury not to see the defendants. Although juries would be able to focus more accurately on the details, human nature would lead people to find other ways to discriminate against others.

Dec. 05 2016 02:45 PM
CoD from Georgia

What has not been acknowledged in the piece is that Batson was most certainly guilty of the burglary and that the one holdout juror probably held out because they both were black. Bias goes both ways. And if statistically black jurors are more likely to be biased in favor of black defendants then obviously even if the prosecutor does not use race to exclude jurors he will end up excluding more black jurors than their proportion in the population. Correlation does not mean causation - just because there are fewer black jurors than population share does not mean they were excluded because they were black.
P.S.: After being released from prison for that burglary (he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 5 years) he continued to commit crimes of similar nature. He is currently still on probation and will be for 10 more years. He is not an innocent victim of the supposedly racist system!

Dec. 05 2016 01:59 PM
Sarah Whited from Fort Worth

I think the solution is pretty simple. Make a blind selection that includes the ability for lawyers to strike jurors. For example, do it online or in a separate room with a mediator etc so that the court room does not know the color of someones skin. Keep that piece confidential.

Nov. 30 2016 04:25 PM
jeffrey westcott from Portland, OR

Great Podcast guys!
I would think that a good solution to this problem might be using a curtain throughout the selection to hide the appearances of the potential jurors from the judge, prosecution, and lawyers.

Nov. 30 2016 03:09 PM

Aaron Russo - Tezeta (Nostalgia) by Mulatu Astatke. I liked it so much I played the episode on my computer and Shazam'd it on my phone! I wish there were a list of songs used in Radiolab episodes, they're so good!

Nov. 30 2016 11:01 AM
Aaron Russo

What's the music playing at the end of the episode?

Nov. 29 2016 06:35 PM
Rosey from New Hampshire

Fascinating, thanks for producing this. If I were in charge of everything here's what I would do: if either the prosecution or the defense objects to a particular selection, her/his opponent can voice an opinion. If s/he expresses an opposite opinion the decision is given to a Random Machine like a coin toss, which randomly picks one or the other.

Nov. 29 2016 11:41 AM
Peter Ross from San Jose

You guys at Radiolab are good, especially with your new legal spinoff aptly dubbed "More Perfect" (and you didn't even get pedantic by rounding it out with "union"). Particularly good was the stuff by Robinson between 45:00 and 50:00, which was sobering, unpredictable, and yet scholarly. Good work.

Nov. 27 2016 06:40 PM

Strange to see this suddenly listed here, since I feel like this podcast was posted months ago.

Anyone know when More Perfect will be back on? I'd love to see one on Gideon v. Wainwright. The case history itself and Gideon's story is genuinely interesting; but it is SUCH a relevant topic today. More people need to talk about better funding for public defenders.

Nov. 23 2016 06:32 PM
Lauren from Victoria, BC Canada

What I find most interesting about 'Object Anyway' is that no one seems to want to confirm that bias is in all of us - in one way or another and not just restricted to race. Everyone has bias - the judge, the lawyers, the potential jurors. So, isn't the ultimate question - what is the best process to reduce the most bias when selecting a jury?

Although a judge's job is supposed to be making objective decisions without bias, leaving jury selection entirely to one person is too much risk. The lawyers, however, are biased beyond their own opinions and experiences being highly skewed to make decisions to help them win their cases, so I don't think peremptory challenges work. Without peremptory challenges, potential jurors with bias could get through to the jury but they become one of 12, which could reduce the impact of their bias within that group especially with the process to deliberate the issues together rather than make gut reactions independently. This is even beyond the fact that jurors have much less control than the judges & the lawyers.

It is a very interesting debate. Thank you for producing shows like this.

Nov. 23 2016 01:20 PM

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