Monday, March 21, 2005

Fred Freeman (and others)

I am so angry I could explode! Apparently, a former prosecutor from Alameda County, California has filed a sworn statement averring that he and other assistant prosecutors "routinely" used their peremptory challenges to keep Jews and black women off juries in capital cases and that keeping Jews off death cases was "standard practice." In addition, in Fred Freeman's case (the individual for whom the prosecutor filed his statement) this former prosecutor claims to have colluded with the judge (Superior Court Judge Stanley Golde, himself Jewish) to keep Jews off the jury. Apparently, the judge told this prosecutor that "No Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber."

I'm furious that this kind of deliberate racism, antisemitism and xenophobia continues within our "justice" system (and elsewhere!). Of course, I knew that it did, but having a sworn acknowledgement of it from a capital case prosecutor just boils me. Perhaps its better that it is now out in the open. Perhaps now, something will be done about it. Perhaps now, juries in California will be more fairly empaneled and the defendant will have just as fair a shot at NOT getting a death sentence as getting one. God forbid we would put people who object to executing human beings on a jury. Of course, that's just the legal (and moral!) implication of purposefully leaving particular ethnic or religious groups off juries. The much broader statement is the statement made by the assumptions and stereotypes implied in the idea that Jews or black women would not be proper jurors in a death case because they would never send someone to death row.

Of course, on the bright side, for either side to purposefully exclude a juror from serving on a panel simply because of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion is grounds for a mistrial. As such, if the California Supreme Court determines through its hearings (it ordered hearings on this issue after seeing the statement in Freeman's case) that such exclusionary racist, anti-semitic behavior has indeed occurred, it will open the door for many individuals currently on death row to receive new trials and new sentencing. When it comes to someone on death row, a shot at a new trial and new sentencing is an excellent thing (at least for the accused and for the justice system...however, it can be a horrible ordeal for the victim's family...which is exactly why the state should get it right the first time and not trample all over peoples' rights just because they think they can get away with it! No one wants a retrial to result in the person responsible being released because the evidence is too old and the new jury has reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, such a result is possible with a retrial. If that happens, then the state is essentially responsible for putting a murderer back on the street because its overzealousness to get a death sentence somehow required a need to trample the Constitution).

Ex-prosecutor says he kept Jews off juries

1 comment:

CarrieJ said...

OK, half of my post does not make sense (the last half), but please excuse my incomprehensible blabbering...I was just free form writing and I was bugged beyond belief.