Fair cross-section – Probably Overthinking It


Summary: The bizarre circumstances of Curtis Flowers’ trials make it doable to estimate the possibilities that white and black jurors would vote to convict him, 98% and 68% respectively, and the likelihood a jury of his friends would discover him responsible, 15%.


Curtis Flowers was tried six occasions for a similar crime. 4 trials resulted in conviction; two resulted in a mistrial because of a hung jury.

Three of the convictions have been invalidated by the Mississippi Supreme Court docket, a minimum of partially as a result of the prosecution had excluded black jurors, depriving Flowers of the suitable to trial by a jury composed of a “fair cross-section of the community“.

In 2019, the fourth conviction was invalidated by the Supreme Court docket of the US for a similar motive. And on September 5, 2020, Mississippi state attorneys announced that charges against him would be dropped.

Due to the weird circumstances of those trials, we will carry out a statistical evaluation that’s usually unimaginable: we will estimate the likelihood that black and white jurors would vote to convict, and use these estimates to compute the likelihood that he could be convicted by a jury that represents the racial make-up of Montgomery County.


In line with my evaluation, the likelihood {that a} white juror on this pool would vote to convict Flowers, given the proof at trial, is 98%. The identical likelihood for black jurors is 68%. So this distinction is substantial.

The likelihood that Flowers could be convicted by a good jury is barely 15%, and the likelihood that he could be convicted 4 occasions out of six occasions is lower than 1%.

The next determine exhibits the likelihood of a responsible verdict as a operate of the variety of black jurors:

In line with the mannequin, the likelihood of a responsible verdict is 55% with an all-white jury. If the jury consists of 5-6 black jurors, which might be consultant of Montgomery County, the likelihood of conviction could be solely 14-15%.

The shaded space represents a 90% credible interval. It’s fairly huge, reflecting uncertainty because of limits of the information. Additionally, the mannequin is predicated on the simplifying assumptions that

  • All six juries noticed basically the identical proof,
  • The possibilities we’re estimating didn’t change considerably over the interval of the trials,
  • Interactions between jurors had negligible results on their votes,
  • If any juror refuses to convict, the result’s a hung jury.

For the small print of the evaluation, you’ll be able to

Due to the Law Office of Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma for his or her help with this text and for his or her persevering with good work for equal justice.


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