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46 Seton Hall Law Review 419 (2016)


After two grand juries failed to indict the police officers that killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, our nation has engaged in polarizing discussions about how juries reach their decision. The very legitimacy of our justice system has come into question. Increasingly, deep concerns have been raised concerning the role of race and gender in jury decision-making in such controversial cases. Tracing the roots of juror decision-making is especially complicated when jurors’ race and gender are factored in as considerations. This Article relies on social science research to explore the many cross-sectional challenges involved in the jurors’ decision making in the George Zimmerman case. To analyze how the Zimmerman jurors’ race and gender may have affected their decision-making in the case, we present empirical studies evaluating the effect of race and gender on juror decision-making in criminal cases. Our aim in this Article is to create dialogue about an important challenge for our justice system: How can we fulfill the constitutional mandate that juries be diverse? How can we overcome the barriers to fulfilling this ideal? We conclude by demanding stronger measures to ensure that juries represent a fair cross-section of the communities that they represent. Our suggestions also include focusing on the prosecutor’s special obligations to serve justice by selecting a jury that adequately represents the community from which it is drawn. These and other changes are crucial to ensuring that communities accept even the most controversial jury decisions as legitimate.