Monday, July 25, 2005
A Cook County judge has decided she won't seat an all-white jury. I am ignorant of the law on this, but isn't that illegal? Basically, Judge Clay is tying the hands of lawyers to choose juries based on their preference. Further, she is tacitly suggesting that an all-white jury is naturally racist.
Ronald Allen, a law professor at Northwestern University, called the judge's comments extraordinary.
"I've never heard of a judge making such a statement, and I think it was ill-advised to do so publicly," he said. "It injects an unfortunate racial element into the matter, and quite frankly it raises very serious questions about whether [the judge] is discriminating against whites."
Gee. Ya think?
But Allen said he is willing to give the judge the benefit of the doubt. "It may be that she thought what she was observing was [lawyers] trying to discriminate against blacks," he said, "and what she was saying is, `I'm not going to permit that.'"
That's all well and good, but it isn't up to a judge to arbitrarily change the jury selection procedures to satisfy her personal sense of fair play.
"Folks, you all know I have a rule; I don't seat all white jurors," Circuit Judge Evelyn Clay said as a jury was being picked to hear a murder trial last month, according to court transcripts.
Hmmm... all white jurors, your honor? Freudian slip?
It is reasonable to expect that almost any random selection of 12 people from Cook County would contain at least one minority, experts said, and while it may be a noble goal in seating a jury, there is no requirement that every jury must include members of a certain race.
It would be a noble goal if a judge did not single out white people as inherently racist. And, no, it isn't reasonable to expect that a random selection of 12 people from Cook County would contain any particular racial makeup. Twelve is much too small a sampling size to anticipate any outcome.
Some lawyers who work at the Criminal Courts Building said they see no problem with a judge taking a stand for diversity on juries. "I see her now as a leader in forward thinking," lawyer Sam Adam Jr. said.
Discriminating against people because of their skin color is "forward thinking." Gotcha.
"And not because it's better for black defendants to have black juries, because the truth of the matter is some of the worst juries for black defendants are black--they are tired of seeing the stuff that goes on in the neighborhood. But this is the year 2005, and if the Constitution means anything, it means a person should have certain unalienable rights--including the right to a trial by jury of his peers. That means that a person should have at least one member of a jury from his racial, ethnic or national background to consider guilt or innocence."
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume Mr. Adam is a defense attorney. He will have to cite the passage in the Constitution that says a person must have at least one member from his ethnic or national background on his jury. And doesn't that present some interesting possibilities? If I am convicted of a crime, I want a white male of Luxembourg/German descent on my jury.posted by the wolf | 1:08 PM