- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - An appeals court ordered a Jefferson County circuit judge to stop dismissing smaller jury pools, known as a jury panels, on the basis that he believes they aren’t reflective of the community’s diversity.

Judge Olu Stevens came under fire from Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine last month after Stevens decided on Feb. 9 to agree with a black defendant’s request and dismiss 41 potential jurors that included only three African-Americans, multiple media outlets reported. A jury panel is about 40 to 50 potential jurors.

In a unanimous Court of Appeals opinion Wednesday, Judge Irv Maze told Stevens the practice violates state law.

“This practice must cease unless or until the law of this Commonwealth changes,” Maze wrote, according to The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1WsTWM1).

Stevens said the state makes it impossible for defense attorneys to levy a complaint over diversity by not keeping racial data in its database of potential jurors, an omission that is “purposeful.”

The court ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that there was systematic exclusion. The law requires a jury pool to represent a cross-section of the community, but the smaller jury panel isn’t required to reflect the community.

The higher court wrote that the lack of data kept by the state, “while unfortunate, does not amount to a deliberate attempt to exclude any particular group.”

A similar case in which Stevens dismissed a jury panel is pending before the state Supreme Court.


This story corrects that a jury panel isn’t required to reflect the community.

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