The Louisiana jury set to decide the fate of a man accused of fatally shooting a former NFL player during a road rage incident has just a single Black juror.
Ronald Gasser fired three shots at New York Jets running back Joe McKnight in December 2016, after McKnight reportedly exited his vehicle to confront Gasser at an intersection in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Gasser, who said he feared for his life and shot in self defense, was initially released without charges. However, authorities later charged him with second- degree murder.
McKnight was unarmed.
The jury selection for Gasser’s trial began early last week, as the judge and attorneys spent hours questioning dozens of potential jurors, according to USA TODAY. However, reports of a skewed jury makeup have since raised suspicion of unfair treatment. Black folks account for over a quarter of the Jefferson Parish population, but somehow only one Black person (a woman) was picked for Gasser’s jury, a tweet by attorney Donald Chick Foret revealed.
Here is makeup of Ronald Gasser jury that was seated late last night. 4 white males, 6 white females, 1 black female and 1 Hispanic female. Note: No black males. Alternates: 2 black females, 1 black male and 1 white female. No Court today. Opening statements Thursday.
— Donald Chick Foret (@chickforet) January 17, 2018
Data from the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, a capital defense non-profit, showed that Jefferson Parish has a history of keep African-Americans off jury boards. In 2013 report, the organization found that local prosecutors removed Black prospective jurors from felony trials nearly three times more than they did white ones, In Justice Today reported. Due to the high rate of exclusion, nearly 80 percent of criminal trials in Jefferson Parish have zero Black representation on their juries.
The news site also pointed to Louisiana’s allowance of non-unanimous jury verdicts, a statute added to the state’s constitution in 1898 aimed at quelling any Black representation on a jury board. The rule, also active in Oregon, only requires a 10-person majority.
If convicted, even with an unbalanced jury, Gasser faces life in prison.