By Associated Press - Saturday, December 28, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut’s highest court will convene a special task force to study racial discrimination during jury selection in criminal trials.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Robinson announced the creation of the Jury Selection Task Force in a recent appeal decision regarding a 2013 murder conviction, the Hartford Courant reported.

The convicted African American man, Evan Holmes, sought a new trial in part because an African American man was kept off the jury by the prosecutor after the man said during the interview process that he “didn’t believe police were always fair.”

The prosecutor used one of his preemptive challenges, a limited number of chances for attorneys to exclude someone from the jury they feel will not be fair.

Three African Americans eventually served on the jury that convicted Holmes in the 2011 death of Jorge Rosa.

The Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court and didn’t overturn the conviction but announced efforts to look at discrimination in the system in general through the task force, which Robinson will appoint.

Although the prosecutor’s explanation for denying the juror in Holmes case was race-neutral as a matter of law, Robinson said, it had a disparate impact on minority jurors, who are more likely to have negative interactions with law enforcement or concerns of fairness of the criminal justice system.

Holmes’ arguments raised “extremely serious concerns with respect to the public perception and fairness of the criminal justice system,” Robinson wrote.

The task force will study racial discrimination in the jury selection process, consider measures intended to promote the selection of diverse panels and propose changes that will be implemented by court rule or legislation.

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