Juror Calls Out Lack of Diversity in Case Against Two Black Defendants, Forces Judge to Consider New Trial

Tiffany Steele, left, and Mary Hamilton, right, wait in courtroom of Judge Cheryl Blackburn. Image courtesy of Stacey Barchenger/The Tennessean
Tiffany Steele, left, and Mary Hamilton, right, wait in courtroom of Judge Cheryl Blackburn. Image courtesy of Stacey Barchenger/The Tennessean

A Nashville juror stood up in the courtroom of Judge Cheryl Blackburn to object to the lack of diversity on the jury. The unnamed individual expressed his concern that there were no Black jurors seated to hear the case of two African-American men, resulting in a new trial.

Terance Bradley, 34, and Hurley Brown, 21, are accused of attacking two people in a fight that occurred July 19, 2014, The Tennessean reports. Shots were fired in the incident, injuring the two victims. Bradley and Brown pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, and carrying a firearm while felons. Both have been behind bars for 18 months awaiting trial.

The juror wasn’t the only one put off by the lack of African-Americans in the jury pool. Mary Hamilton, Bradley’s grandmother, and Tiffany Steele, Brown’s mother, don’t think it’s fair for the men to have to face a jury that doesn’t contain anyone from their own race. Hamilton and Steele say they watched as prosecutors eliminated “every Black person that was called up from the larger jury pool” except for one white juror, according to The Tennessean.

“It was disgusting. It was irritating,” Steele told the paper.

In a statement to The Tennessean, assistant District Attorney General Megan King asserted that the office doesn’t use race as a factor in jury selection. She also says that the reasons for the jurors’ dismissals were presented before defense lawyers made their claim. Those reasons included “language barrier,” “son arrested,” “answer to truth question,” “family not treated fairly,” “lied about record” and “disengaged.”

A precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court asserts that lawyers cannot dismiss potential jurors solely on the basis of race. The formative case, Batson v. Kentucky, also says that those accused of a crime don’t have the right to be heard by a jury containing members of the defendant’s own race, per The Tennessean.

Bradley and Brown’s case has brought the issue of poorly diversified juries to the forefront. Ludye Wallace, president of the Nashville branch of the NAACP,  says that an appropriate representation of race on juries is an issue and that the organization would look into Nashville’s methods of jury selection.

“We may need to see if we can raise this issue to make sure that you don’t just remove somebody from the jury selection process based on their race, creed or religion,” he told The Tennessean. “You can’t do that.”

The jury was ultimately dismissed on a technicality, Raw Story reports. Judge Blackburn told The Tennessean she dismissed the jury because they violated her instructions to refrain from discussing matters of the case before hearing all of the evidence.

According to lawyers of the case, the chosen group of jurors had met for lunch earlier that day to briefly discuss the jury’s lack of diversity.

Though saddened by the delayed trial of their relatives, Hamilton and Steele say they feel that Bradley and Brown wouldn’t have received a fair trial if the judge chose to stick with the original jury.

“There was an angel in the courtroom that day,” Steele told The Tennessean. “Good for him [the juror] for speaking up.”

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