People gathered in Kingstanding, Birmingham, for a vigil in memory of Dea-John Reid

On 31 May 2024, over 100 people gathered opposite McDonalds on College Road in Kingstanding, Birmingham, for a vigil. Posters and T-Shirts featured the photograph of a handsome Black boy with a gentle smile and kind eyes: Dea-John Reid. Three years ago, on 31 May 2021, 14-year-old Dea-John left his mother’s house in the afternoon to play football with friends and never returned.

On his way home, Dea-John Reid was racially abused and threatened by a group of five white people (including two adult men). He was alone and unarmed. He ran as fast as he could, but the group chased him. On College Road, a 14-year-old boy caught up with Dea-John and stabbed him in the chest. He died at the spot where the crowd gathered for the vigil three years later to commemorate him

Joan Morris experienced the jury verdict as a second violent blow. She left the trial feeling that the jury would have reached a different conclusion if the perpetrator were Black and the victim White.

Tara Lai Quinlan and Katharina Karcher - University of Birmingham

Dea-John’s family and friends continue to demand justice. The vigil on 31 May 2024 was organised by the ‘Justice 4 Dea-John Reid’ (J4DJR) campaign, whose creative protest and visual politics I have been researching for several years. Led by Dr Bishop Desmond Jaddoo and Dea-John’s family and friends, the J4DJR campaign aims to bring about reforms to make juries fairer and more diverse.

During the trial in spring 2022, Dea-John’s mother Joan Morris compared the attack on her son to a scene from the film Mississippi Burning. In court, police presented detailed evidence of the racist murder. However, a jury consisting of eleven white members and one British-Asian juror reached a very different conclusion: they dropped the murder charges and ruled out the racist motive. Dea-John’s killer was sentenced to six-and-a-half-years in prison for manslaughter. Everyone else was acquitted.

Joan Morris experienced the jury verdict as a second violent blow. She left the trial feeling that the jury would have reached a different conclusion if the perpetrator were Black and the victim White. Because in England and Wales there is a shocking lack of research on jury diversity and robust studies of racially different lived experiences of jury trials, Dr Tara Lai Quinlan and I have teamed up with the J4DJR campaign to change that and bring scientific evidence to the campaign.

While almost all survey respondents agreed jury service is important, our research suggests that there is a clear lack of knowledge and trust in the jury system. 40 per cent of survey respondents reported that they had little or no trust in juries, and almost 50 per cent said that they don’t think that juries are fair.

Tara Lai Quinlan and Katharina Karcher - University of Birmingham

In May 2024, we collected 1,000 survey responses in an anonymous online questionnaire. The results were striking. While almost all survey respondents agreed jury service is important, our research suggests that there is a clear lack of knowledge and trust in the jury system. 40 per cent of survey respondents reported that they had little or no trust in juries, and almost 50 per cent said that they don’t think that juries are fair. Only half of respondents think the criminal justice system is fair. Joan Morris said that she lost faith in the criminal justice system because of the jury trial. Can this trust be restored?

A majority (61%) of our survey respondents share Joan Morris' view that more diverse juries are fairer. Yet juries in England and Wales remain extremely lacking in diversity. Over half (51%) of survey respondents think this shouldn’t be the case, and that juries should look like the communities they serve. And yet there are no legal mechanisms to require or address a lack of jury diversity, even in the most diverse communities like Birmingham.

Our research seeks to understand the ways trust and diversity can improve the ways jury trials occur in England and Wales. And, working with a range of community partners, we want to explore and address the trust deficit in England and Wales juries.