Are blacks allowed to serve on Smith County juries?

Posted in the Tyler Forum

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1 - 11 of 11 Comments Last updated Aug 28, 2012
ghi

Benton, AR

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#1
Jul 5, 2012
 

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I was just reading another opinion from the 12th Court of Appeals - Richard Keith Lawson v State - seems the only 4 African American jurors within the strike zone were struck, a couple for questionable reasons. Of course, this was in Jack Skeen's court. I recall a while back the appeals court overturned a conviction that Skeen obtained as DA because he excluded all the African American jurors - one because he simply didn't like the way he looked at him. Of course, the pro-prosecution CCA reversed the court of appeals, reinstating the conviction. However, there does seem to be a pattern. Seems Jack Skeen doesn't want blacks on juries. I bet, if someone where to look at the numbers, you'd find a very low number of blacks have ever served on Smith County juries. I suspect, the DA's office has a policy to exclude as many of them as they can. Any thoughts?
abc

Benton, AR

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#4
Jul 18, 2012
 
this one needs to go back to the top
Adam

Tyler, TX

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#5
Jul 18, 2012
 

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If black people would get off their @$$ and show up for jury duty they might get placed on juries. Every time I’ve been in jury duty the ratio of black to white is probably 10 to 1. This is not a cross section of the population, so why aren’t they there? The jury pool is a random selection, so the ratio should be 1 to 1 or so. My guess is that they are too busy sitting at home enjoying their welfare and other government program money that they don’t feel they need to bother showing up for the $6 of jury pay. But this is just a guess.
abc

Benton, AR

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#6
Jul 18, 2012
 
Maybe you have some good points, Adam. But that still doesn't excuse prosecutors striking jurors on the basis of race. But, this is Smith County so...
abc

Benton, AR

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#7
Jul 19, 2012
 

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Now that I've thought about it a little. Maybe, Adam, its not that they are failing to show up- I can't help but wonder if they are just not being called. It wouldn't surprise me if the DAs office is messing with the process of sending out jury notices. It does seem that some people get called frequently, while others rarely do. It would be interesting if the justice department would come in and take a look at this stuff. No telling what they might find.
Tim

Tyler, TX

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#8
Jul 19, 2012
 
I moved back to Tyler about four years ago and I seem to get a Jury Summons every six months. It is ridiculous. Oh and by the way, I am caucasian.
vut

Benton, AR

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#9
Jul 27, 2012
 
How about some more discussion on this.
dcb

Benton, AR

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#10
Aug 28, 2012
 
Just read another opinion from the 12th court of appeals. It appears that Hispanics are also not allowed to serve on Smith County juries. I have to post the language from this opinion. It is downright embarassing. I can't believe Justice Hoyle actually signed his name to this. It is so obvious that this was intentional discriminaton. Some of the statements made by Justice Hoyle in this opinion are amazingly moronic. It seems that the 12th Court of Appeals endorses purposeful discrimination in jury selection.

Analysis
At trial, Appellant objected to the petit jury on the basis that the State had impermissibly exercised peremptory challenges on three Hispanic members of the prospective jury panel. The State responded that it had legitimate, race neutral reasons for the strikes. According to the State, it struck Juror 5 because she failed to completely fill out her juror information card, Juror 7 because he too failed to completely fill out his juror card and because he had a prior misdemeanor conviction, and Juror 11 because he wore a short sleeved shirt buttoned all the way to the top of the collar even though he was not wearing a tie.
After hearing the State’s race neutral reasons, Appellant argued that the reasons proffered were contrived and pretextual. The trial court found that the State’s strikes were racially neutral and denied Appellant’s Batson motion.
We examine all relevant factors bearing upon the trial court’s decision when evaluating racially neutral explanations for strikes that are alleged to be pretextual. See, e.g., Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 253, 125 S. Ct. 2317, 2332, 162 L. Ed. 2d 196 (2005)(examining actual strikes, use of jury shuffle, disparity in questioning, and history of excluding racial minorities from juries). First, from our review of the record, it appears that there were only three Hispanics in the jury strike zone.4 Given the small number of Hispanics in the jury strike zone, the analysis of the statistical data pertaining to the State’s peremptory strikes is questionable, but striking of three prospective jurors is not too great to attribute merely to happenstance. Cf. Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. at 342, 123 S. Ct. at 1042 (happenstance unlikely to explain prosecutor using ten of fourteen strikes to exclude 91% of black venire members). Second, a comparative juror analysis indicates that while a few other potential jurors left portions of the juror information card blank, Jurors 5 and 7 had the most incomplete juror information cards. During the Batson hearing, the State similarly asserted that Jurors 5 and 7 had the most incomplete cards, and Appellant did not challenge the State’s assertion. With regard to Juror 11, the record does not identify any other potential juror who wore a short sleeved shirt buttoned to the top of the collar without wearing a tie. The State identified two other potential jurors that it felt were dressed in a similar nonconforming manner, one with a Mohawk haircut and another with a tie dye shirt. Both of
4 Juror 26 failed to fill out his juror information card completely by leaving his race blank. No mention was made of his race, and it appears that he was struck by Appellant. All other jurors indicated their race on their juror information card.
dcb

Benton, AR

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#11
Aug 28, 2012
 
Had to carry the rest over:

5
these potential jurors were Caucasian and were also struck by the State.
Third, the record does not indicate that the State requested a jury shuffle. Fourth, a review of the State’s voir dire examination shows no contrasting voir dire questions posed respectively to minority and nonminority panel members. Fifth, there is no evidence offered in this case to show a history of the State’s systematically excluding Hispanics from juries. Sixth, the reasons provided by the State for the strikes are facially race neutral. Appellant was on trial for aggravated sexual assault of a child. It is reasonable for the State to seek to exclude potential jurors who do not conform to societal norms. Jurors who fail or refuse to respond to questions posed in a juror information card certainly choose not to conform to societal norms. Wearing a short sleeved shirt buttoned to the top button is a different type of nonconformity, but it is nonconformity nonetheless.
Having reviewed the entire record, we conclude the trial court’s decision to deny Appellant’s Batson motion was not clearly erroneous. The State provided racially neutral explanations for its use of peremptory challenges, and Appellant failed to carry his burden to show that the stated reasons were pretextual. The trial court was in the best position to assess the reasonableness of the State’s assertions regarding the strikes. Such an assessment would rely on a number of intangible judgments made by the trial court. See Miller–El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. at 339-40, 123 S. Ct. at 1040-41. Giving, as we must, deference to the trial court’s ruling, we do not have a “definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” See Guzman, 85 S.W.3d at 254. We overrule Appellant’s first issue.
dcb

Benton, AR

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#12
Aug 28, 2012
 
It is beyond dispute that the Smith COunty DA's office is purposely excluding jurors on the basis of race. Now, the question is, will anyone do anything about it?
dcb

Benton, AR

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#13
Aug 28, 2012
 
Also note that the case quoted from, Hernandez-Mora v State, was also in Jack Skeen's court.

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