Vice President Kamala Harris called for changes to the jury selection process on Friday, but did not directly comment on the active trial of the men accused of chasing and fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery.
The Georgia jury picked to decide on the case consists of one Black juror and 11 White jurors, despite uproar from prosecutors who argued that several Black potential panelists were cut because of their race.
When asked about the trial and jury selection and discrimination in the U. S., Harris said she was not going to comment on an active trial “for obvious reasons.”
“I don’t want to in any way influence or distract from what are the facts, the evidence in that case,” she said. “But on the broader point, we still have a lot of work that we can do to improve the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
Harris, a former prosecutor, said she has “worked on that for many years, and that includes ensuring that protections are in place so that anyone that is accused of a crime and charged with a crime has a jury of their peers.”
“And we want to put in place all of the safeguards that are available to do that,” Harris said.
“For example, over the years, there has been talk about understanding that jurors, if they are a working person, if they work two, or three jobs, unlikely they can sit for hours on end, potentially weeks and weeks on end, and not be at their job…not get paid leave,” Harris said. “And they just can’t afford it, which means that we will, in those cases, have a jury that is probably not a jury of peers.”
Harris added that there is work “that we’ve always had to do and we actually have embedded in the jury selection procedure, specific objections that, on behalf of a client, a lawyer can make when it becomes clear that there is a systematic and racially-based exclusion of potential jurors.”
“We always have to have protections in place in our criminal justice system as a whole, including in our jury selection system,” Harris said.
Race is a central issue in the case involving the death of Arbery.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley acknowledged on Wednesday that “intentional discrimination” by attorneys for the three White defendants charged in the death of the Black man appeared to have shaped jury selection. But he said Georgia law limited his authority to intervene. Defense attorneys argued tha… (Read more)