Could Reparations Make For Fairer Juries?

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

I’ve heard several stories from San Francisco Public Defender Manohar Raju about his courtroom experiences over the years. One that’s stuck is about a man who was excused from jury service because he lived in Bayview, the same neighborhood as the Black defendant.

Raju said the dismissal prompted a different prospective juror to criticize the process.

... This year, Assembly Member Phil Ting introduced AB1452. The San Francisco Democrat’s bill would create a pilot program called Be the Jury, which would raise the per-day pay for low-income jurors from $15 to $100 starting in 2022 and stopping before the end of 2023. Funded by philanthropic groups, one of the pilot’s goals is to improve racial and economic diversity in juries.

That’s certainly been a problem in San Francisco, where approximately 3,800 low-income residents were excused from jury service due to financial hardship in 2018 and 2019, according to the Financial Justice Project, an initiative within the city treasurer’s office that evaluates how fines and fees impact residents. Financial dismissals accounted for 12% of all jury excusals