JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Are people of color being excluded from juries in death penalty cases? The answer is yes according to a recent study that focused specifically on Duval County.
That study is now being used to challenge the legitimacy of the death penalty itself.
The study looked at something called death disqualification, which is when a juror who fundamentally opposes the death penalty is automatically excluded from a jury. This study found that people of color are more likely to oppose the death penalty. But they are still twice as likely as white people who oppose the death penalty to be excluded.
"You've systematically excluded everybody who opposes the death penalty, basically. And so, you're creating a jury who is attitudinally inconsistent with the general public,” said UCF Professor and Study Author Jacinta Gau.
Gau, who conducted the study, analyzed 12 capital cases in Duval County and found that of people who opposed the death penalty, only 19% of black people were chosen as jurors compared to nearly 25% of white people.
"You've got not only the potential problem with actual justice, but you've got definitely a problem with the appearance of justice, it doesn't look good,” Gau said.
Gau notes all but one of the 12 defendants facing death were themselves black.
“When the jury has been stripped of people who oppose the death penalty, who then the jury is either majority white, or potentially all white, and imposing the death penalty on a black or Hispanic defendant,” Gau said. "That just really violates the appearance of justice, and it very well might also violate substantive justice as well."
Brian Stull with the American Civil Liberties Union says the GROUP initiated this study to challenge the death sentence of Dennis Glover, one of the 12 defendants analyzed in this study.
The state recently agreed to drop the death penalty in the case.
“He is now serving a life sentence and the motion was not heard or decided and is now moot in his case. But a number of other defendants in Duval County have filed similar motions based on the GAO study,” said Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project Brian Stull.
Gau says about 39% of black people were removed for opposing the death penalty versus nearly 16% of white individuals removed for the same reason.
“Courts will say that the death penalty must be consistent with community values and therefore not a violation of the Eighth Amendment, because people juries keep imposing death,” Gau said. "But that logic is just a feedback loop in and of itself in itself, because you've excluded from juries, all the people who oppose the death penalty
First Coast News reached out to the State Attorney's Office and are waiting for a response.