Judge lays down own law: No all-white juries
WOULD SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT IS SO CONTROVERSIAL ABOUT THIS. ESPECIALLY IN CHICAGO!!?
IT’S NOT HARD TO FIND SOME NEGRO PERSON WHO DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING ELSE TO DO DURING THE DAY, YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT THESE FREAKEN LAWYERS CAN’T FIND (ONE) NEGRO TO SERVE?
UNLESS IT IS RACISM… OR THE FACT THAT THEY ARE SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDING BECAUSE OF RACE, WHAT THE FUCK ELSE COULD IT BE?
IF YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF KANSAS OR NEBRASKA I COULD SEE THAT BUT THERE IS NO EXCUSE IN COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS OR ANY OTHER MAJOR CITY IN THE U.S.
Transcripts reveal controversial stand
By Jeff Coen
Tribune staff reporter
A judge's comments in recent months that she would refuse to seat an all-white jury have raised eyebrows at Cook County Criminal Court and questions about whether the judge acted inappropriately.
"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.
Chief Criminal Court Judge Paul Biebel Jr. said last week that he had recently been made aware of the remarks Clay made.
Clay admitted they were "indelicately stated" and said she regretted being blunt. But it is her view that qualified African-Americans were being left off juries without good reason, she said.
"I try to preside over jury trials in a fair and impartial way--that is always my goal," Clay said. "I carry out all my duties and responsibilities with that goal."
Clay, who is African-American, made the remarks in chambers before three separate trials, according to transcripts reviewed by the Tribune.
The first time was the April 20 trial of a man for unlawful use of a weapon. After eight jurors were picked, Clay indicated she was not satisfied with the makeup of the panel.
"I'm telling you folks, I don't know what you all intend to do, but I have no intention of seating an all-white jury," Clay said, according to transcripts.
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."
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.'"
In a 1986 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Batson vs. Kentucky that it was a violation of the constitution to keep blacks off juries solely because of their race. The court found that the public's confidence in the fairness of the system would be damaged.
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.