Some prosecutors may be using subtle tactics to dismiss Black jurors, despite laws against such racial bias in jury selection, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
You could call it the “O.J. Strategy.” Rather than addressing race overtly, these prosecutors ask jurors whether they agreed with the controversial 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson. Simpson, a Black football star, was charged with the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, who were both White.
If jurors agreed with the verdict, they are dismissed, and prosecutors cite non-racial reasons. Others are added to the jury if their answers satisfy the prosecutors, according to the article.
The Simpson case isn’t the only tactic prosecutors have used to discriminate, say defense lawyers. Federal and state courts in California said jurors were California removed because they lived in predominantly-Black Los Angeles communities, according to the article.
Attorneys for two Black men on California’s Death Row said prosecutors used the O.J. Simpson question to select juries in the 1990s. The victims in both cases were White.
California’s high court has upheld similar convictions in other cases.
In one of the cases, Johnny Duane Miles was convicted of rape and murder by a jury with no Black members.
Two Black prospective jurors were removed from that trial after answering that they agreed with the Simpson verdict. But prosecutors say their removal was due to their skepticism of presented evidence, the Chronicle reported. Miles was sentenced to death in 1999.
Miles’ lawyer Cliff Gardner contested the prosecutors’ explanations, describing them as “pretexts for discrimination.” He added that the jurors who were dismissed came from law-enforcement-friendly backgrounds: The first was a Marine Corps veteran and married to a correctional officer. The other was the son of a federal drug agent.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office has argued that while the O.J. Simpson case was still national news, it was fair game for pre-trial questioning, according to court filings.
“The Simpson case was not about race,” Deputy Attorney General Seth Friedman said in the filings, which are a response to NAACP arguments on Miles’ behalf.
Instead, he argued that the trial is a stand-in for issues relevant to future cases such as “the reputation and trustworthiness of police officers,” the Chronicle reported.