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Letters to the Editor: Racism is baked into jury selection. End peremptory challenges to mitigate that

Jury box
The jury box inside a courtroom in the Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo.
(Brennan Linsley / Associated Press)

To the editor: You are correct that Assembly Bill 3070 might make some difference in terms of reducing the racist use of peremptory challenges in criminal trials. Requiring prosecutors to explain why they struck a person of color from a panel is a minimum; however, I do not think AB 3070 goes far enough.

I am a public defender, and for more than 30 years I have been representing people accused of crimes. I wish it weren’t so, but racism is baked into the way we conduct jury selection.

Potential jurors are called into a jury panel from lists of voter registration and DMV records. The panels I have seen show up for jury duty are far more Caucasian than the overall population. Over the years I have watched, and strenuously objected, as some prosecutors systematically used peremptory challenges to strike the few people of color who actually show up for jury duty.

The only way to remove racism from jury selection in criminal trials is to eliminate peremptory challenges entirely. Challenges for cause should remain, but as long as peremptory challenges exist, there will be prosecutors who will use them to remove people of color based solely on their race.

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Mark Shoup, Apple Valley


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