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Langauge & Law Speaker Series: The language of U.S. jury exclusion

Guest Speaker: Anna Offit, Civil Jury Project, New York University

Though thirty-two million Americans are summoned for jury duty each year, only a small fraction actually serve on juries. This is because judges and attorneys can excuse potential jurors for a variety of reasons (e.g., if a juror says she can't be fair) or without giving a reason at all (using a "peremptory challenge"). Peremptory challenges, which give lawyers a free hand to dismiss jurors, have become increasingly controversial since they create an opening for racial prejudice and bias to enter the courtroom. Taking this controversy as a point of departure, and drawing on social science research, this session examines the language of jury exclusion. It encompasses prosecutors' discussions behind closed doors, judicial opinions, and a podcast analysis of a case called Flowers v. Mississippi which is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The animating question of the class is whether the legal mechanisms in place to prevent discrimination during jury selection work-- and if not-- whether they can be fixed. 

Monday, March 18, 2019 at 2:50pm to 4:30pm

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COS, Linguistics

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