Note from John Rubin: I regret to report that Emily Coward is leaving the School of Government. In her nine years at the School as part of our Public Defense Education group, Emily co-authored our defender manual, Raising Issues of Race in North Carolina Criminal Cases; directed the North Carolina Racial Equity Network, a program providing a series of trainings for interested North Carolina defenders; and became a national expert in, among other areas, efforts to address racial disparities and bias in jury formation and selection. The good news is that Emily is launching the Inclusive Juries Project (IJP), which will partner with lawyers, scholars, students, court actors, and community members on initiatives aimed at ensuring fair and inclusive juries in North Carolina and nationally. Through research, scholarship, consulting, and educational initiatives, IJP will contribute to jury reform efforts, develop tools and strategies to address juror discrimination, and work to ensure the constitutional promise of the American jury system. We are grateful for Emily’s many contributions while at the School of Government and wish her all the best in her new endeavors.
A Glynn County, Georgia jury will soon determine the fate of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan for their roles in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia last year. You may have read that the defense attorneys struck eight of the nine, or 88%, of all eligible black jurors. If you haven’t followed the case, the defendants are white, and the victim, Mr. Arbery, was black. Mr. Arbery was out jogging when he was pursued, cut off, and killed by the defendants in their trucks. The jury hearing the case is comprised of 11 white jurors and one black juror; all four alternates are white. Black jurors are underrepresented on this jury in relation to their representation in the county, as 26.6% of Glynn County residents are black. Continue reading →
In June, the pain caused by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—and the history of pain those deaths echoed—served as a call to action for many Americans and created a rising tide of engagement in race equity work from organizations across the country. The leaders of the School of Government and the Judicial College both announced that our organizations would rise to this occasion and prioritize race equity in our work moving forward. In addition to these internal commitments, the North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges and the North Carolina Conference of District Court Judges both created committees to work on racial equity education. These committees invited members of the Judicial College team to partner with them to design and offer new and responsive programming to their membership. Continue reading →
Following the killing of George Floyd, several of North Carolina’s judicial officials joined others across the state and nation in sharing their personal experiences and perspectives on racism, bias, and disparate treatment and in calling for improvements to our justice system. Wake County District Court Judge Ashleigh Dunston recounted in her Fall 2020 State Bar Journal article, Justice Isn’t Always Blind, numerous first-hand accounts from Black judges and attorneys who have endured demeaning and discriminatory treatment in and out of the courtroom. One of the approaches we have taken at the North Carolina Judicial College to promote racial equity is by providing education on implicit bias and about empirical analyses of disparate treatment of and outcomes for minorities. Neither of these approaches adequately imparts the personal pain that many court officials and attorneys themselves have experienced. To give voice to these experiences, we created a video series, Reflections on Race and Justice. Several brave jurists have contributed their personal narratives. Judges who have seen the series have shared with us the impact of their colleagues’ voices and the desire for improvement that it inspires. Our project is ongoing, and we hope to collect many more accounts. If you would like to contribute your own perspective to this project, please contact me at email@example.com.