Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-2019

Abstract

How much does luck matter to a criminal defendant in a jury trial? We use rich data on jury selection and a novel identification strategy to causally estimate how parties who are randomly assigned a less favorable jury (as proxied by whether their attorneys exhaust their peremptory strikes) fare at trial. We find that criminal defendants who lose the “jury lottery” are more likely to be convicted than their similarly-situated counterparts, with a significant effect for black defendants. Our results are robust to alternate specifications and raise important policy questions about race and the use of peremptory strikes in the criminal justice system. In particular, our results suggest increasing peremptory strike limits for defendants would decrease the variance in outcomes for similarly-situated black defendants.

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