In the trial of the San Diego “Equality 9″ — 9 activists who staged a sit-in at the San Diego Clerk’s office after they refused to issue a wedding license to a same-sex couple after the Federal Court overturned prop-8…
Superior Court Judge Joan Weber ruled that the defendants in the case were denied a representative jury when prosecutors challenged the selection of a gay man to be on the panel. She said she found the actions of the San Diego City Attorney’s Office “shocking.”
Okay, the legal-ish explanation of what’s going on…in CA at least. In criminal cases (and some civil cases) you are entitled to a panel of 12 jurors plus (usually 2) alternates (if a case is expected to run really long you may have as many as 6 alternates). Alternates are there in case a juror can’t finish the case so that you don’t have to re-try the whole damn thing. Each defendant and the prosecution gets a certain number of peremptory — as in you don’t have to explain why — challenges. Depending on the judge/county/type of matter it can be between 4-10 challenges. Then you can challenge for cause.
>>I once had to do “rock-paper-scissors” with a defense counsel on who had to blow a freebee in order to exclude a hard-of-hearing potential juror who refused the assisted listing devices offered by the court.<<
“For Cause,” means the potential juror has some conflict — like a trial for a gang related murder and a potential juror has lost a family member to gang violence.
Criminal defense attorneys regularly file motions claiming that the prosecutor’s office used either its peremptory or for-cause challenges in a discriminatory manner. Judges rarely grant them. For the judge to grant this means that the conduct was blatant, obvious and really gave her pause. And you will see in the comments on the Union-Tribune several of the potential jurors that day say that the juror questionnaires had many questions that would, when taken as a whole, draw out the sexual orientation of potential jurors.
The judge urged the prosecutor’s office to lessen the charges to infractions (like a traffic ticket) as opposed to misdemeanors (which, if convicted, could net each defendant a stay in county jail of up to a year) by saying:
“I’ve never had so many jurors express concerns about why a prosecutor’s office would move forward and spend time and money on a case of this nature.”
via U.S. News – Judge calls prosecutor’s rejection of gay juror ‘shocking’. and San Diego Union-Tribune – Judge slams prosecutors for dismissing gay juror