Common Cause files brief in NC Supreme Court case challenging race discrimination in jury selection

RALEIGH – Common Cause NC today filed an amicus brief with the NC Supreme Court in the case of State v. Clegg, challenging race discrimination in jury selection.

“North Carolina has a well-documented and widespread problem with race discrimination in jury selection,” the brief states. “As is the case with voter suppression, the harm caused by juror discrimination is incalculable in scope, as it undermines the legitimacy of our democracy and confers second-class citizenship on people of color.”

Democracy NC joined Common Cause NC in filing the brief, which urges the state’s highest court to grant the defendant a new trial because of the prosecution’s race discrimination against Black jurors at his first trial, and to begin a rulemaking or commission process to provide more effective approaches to guard against jury discrimination.

Studies have shown that Black jurors in North Carolina are excluded at twice the rate as white jurors. However, the state’s appellate courts have never in their history recognized race discrimination against a Black juror. North Carolina is remarkably the only state in the entire South with this sad track record.

“Voting and jury service are parallel aspects of citizenship,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “Just as we must protect equal access to the ballot box, we must defend equal access to the jury box. This is a bedrock principle of our democracy and crucial to ensuring that ours is truly a government of, by and for all the people.”

Common Cause NC has for years worked to combat voter suppression and has promoted civic engagement among students of color at historically Black colleges and universities throughout North Carolina. The nonpartisan organization also fights to end mass incarceration as part of a longstanding commitment to serve as a watchdog on government, defend and strengthen voting and civil rights, and ensure that every person is able to fully participate in our democracy.

Read the amicus brief online here.