12 Angry Hipsters: Are Young, White Jurors Harder on Defendants? - FindLaw Blotter
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12 Angry Hipsters: Are Young, White Jurors Harder on Defendants?

Hipsters are filtering into every aspect of urban life, even criminal juries. In fact, some New York City defense attorneys have begun to notice a disturbing trend: that well-off, educated white people are slowly gentrifying Brooklyn's jury pool.

Some worry that these "hipster jurors" are bad news for criminal defendants. But is a jury of privileged young people really that bad?

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Influx of Young White Jurors

The New York Post reports that trendy neighborhoods in Brooklyn like Williamsburg have produced a shift in the demographics of the jury pool. Some Brooklyn defense attorneys have taken to calling this the "Williamsburg Effect," as more affluent, educated jurors from these areas affect the general makeup of a potential jury.

Criminal defendants generally have the right to be tried by a jury of their peers, but nothing guarantees those "peers" will be anything like you. As one defense lawyer told the Post, hipster jurors are "much more trusting of police," coming from backgrounds where police corruption or racial profiling is nearly non-existent. You can imagine it might be slightly more difficult to convince a jury that a traffic stop was illegal if most jurors have never even been pulled over, let alone under a false pretense.

Like many "trendy" urban areas, Brooklyn has become significantly more white over the last 12 years -- from 41 to 50 percent, according to Census data. Yet the ACLU found last year that blacks were arrested about four times more than whites for marijuana-related crimes, and up to eight times more than whites in some states. So persons of color in these gentrified areas may find themselves in front of jurors who neither look like them nor share their problems.

Hipster Jurors Can Sway Juries

Aside from the racial and social disparity between hipster jurors and defendants, highly opinionated and educated jurors can often tip juries one way or the other. As another defense attorney told the Post, hipster jurors can "hijack" a jury because they tend to be confident and educated.

Jurors often look to those with advanced degrees as sources of authority, and it's one of the reasons that jury consultants look out for them. A hipster juror with a law degree, for example, has the potential to be seen as a "legal expert."

With this hipster shift, it may be time for defendants to dress more like the jurors who get chosen. Maybe ditch the orange jumpsuit for a tweed jacket and some horn-rimmed frames.

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