The Law: Bias in the Jury Box

When the framers of the Bill of Rights guaranteed every U.S. defendant the right to an "impartial jury," they underscored a truism of human affairs—that a people's respect for law depends largely on the law's respect for them. It is an equal truism of U.S. life that nearly all black defendants are tried by white juries, a fact that fuels black suspicion of "white law."

Racial discrimination in the jury box has grown far more subtle since the 1870s, when many state laws openly barred blacks as jurors. The Supreme Court has consistently struck down unfair statutes and practices. But the court...