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2-Minute Charlotte: Juries here likely don’t represent the city

Media vehicles parked at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Wednesday, July 21, 2015.
Media vehicles parked at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Wednesday, July 21, 2015. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

2-Minute Charlotte gets you caught up on the day’s most important local news before your coffee has a chance to cool down. Today’s edition: 396 words. Expected reading time: 1 minute, 58 seconds.

If you’ve passed civics class, you know that a trial is supposed to be decided by a jury of your peers. But in Mecklenburg County, that might not be the case.

An analysis from the Observer’s Pam Kelley and Gavin Off found that people who live in predominantly white neighborhoods are more than 1.5 times as likely to serve on juries than people who live in predominantly black areas. Anecdotally, judges say they’ve noticed that juries tend to be whiter than the county as a whole.

BACKGROUND: There’s no law that says juries have to represent the diversity of the county, but experts say it makes them more effective. A complicating factor for jury diversity is the way jury pools are put together: generally, using registered voter lists or licensed drivers. Jury summonses are also mailed to people’s houses, where they’re easy to lose or be misdelivered. Analyzing juror diversity has to rely on neighborhood data because Mecklenburg County doesn’t keep track of race.

WHY THIS MATTERS: All eyes are on the high-profile trial of Randall “Wes” Kerrick, a white police officer who is charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black man, Jonathan Ferrell. As attorneys on both sides try to seat a jury, they’ve used their ability to strike jurors largely on racial lines: Prosecutors have dismissed four white men, and the defense has struck four black women. Making sure the upcoming trial is completely fair is vital for the community, which will be under tremendous strain no matter what the outcome is.

What people are talking about

CRANES ARE EVERYWHERE: It’s not ’08, but construction activity is getting closer to boom status.

RETIRED AT 25: Panthers lineman Jonathan Martin is hanging up his cleats in his mid-20s while suffering from a back injury.

What to watch for

TOLLS, TOLLS EVERYWHERE: If you’re not crazy about the toll lanes coming to I-77, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Pretty much every major highway in the Charlotte area has toll lanes planned for expansion projects. Toll lanes on U.S. 74 could be in place as early as 2017. Check out this map of when they’re expected to come on line (and here are the costs). Hat tip to Nick Lawton at Time Warner Cable News for the tweets.

BREE NEWSOME HEADS TO COURT: The woman who scaled the Columbia flagpole to remove the Confederate banner had a first appearance. She’ll be back in court in November.

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