A Black Kentucky judge is under fire for addressing racial imbalances on jury pools, according to WDRB News.
The state Supreme Court has agreed to weigh whether Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens abused his power last week when he stopped a drug trial and dismissed an entire jury panel because it had too few Blacks, reports the television news outlet:
“The concern is that the panel is not representative of the community,” said Stevens, who brought in a new group of jurors despite objections from both the defense and prosecutor.
It was not the first time Stevens, who is Black, has made such a decision.
On Nov. 18, after a 13-member jury chosen for a theft trial ended up with no Black jurors, Stevens found it “troublesome” and dismissed the panel at the request of a defense attorney.
“There is not a single African-American on this jury and (the defendant) is an African-American man,” Stevens said, according to a video of the trial. “I cannot in good conscience go forward with this jury.”
Following complaints from the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Attorney General about Stevens, the state Supreme Court last month agreed to hear arguments in the case.
The county has long “had a problem with minorities being underrepresented on local juries,” the report notes.
Judge Stevens is right. Defendants are entitled to a jury of their peers and that does not appear to be happening in Jefferson County, where studies have consistently found panels lacking in minorities.
We’re glad that someone is paying attention to the jury selection process as the debate about reforming America’s lopsided criminal justice system expands beyond policing and into courtrooms.
SOURCE: WDRB News | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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