Court Told All-White Jury Unfair to Black Defendant from Illinois
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Disqualifying prospective jurors because of their race violates a criminal defendant’s right to a jury chosen from a cross-section of the community, a lawyer told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Attorney Patricia Unsinn asked the court to order a new trial for Frank D. Teague, who is serving a 30-year prison term for the holdup of a Chicago supermarket and shooting of police called to the scene.
An all-white jury convicted Teague, a black man, of armed robbery and attempted murder in August 1978 after a Cook County, Ill., prosecutor used all 10 of his peremptory challenges - the disqualification of a prospective juror without stating a reason - to exclude blacks from the jury.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1986 in a case called Batson vs. Kentucky that a defendant’s right to equal protection under the law would be violated if prosecutors disqualify potential jurors based on their race.
The justices later held that the Batson ruling does not apply to convicted criminals who, like Teague, exhausted direct appeals in state courts prior to April 30, 1986, when the Batson decision was announced.
While the Batson ruling came too late to help Teague, his lawyer argued that the prosecutor’s action also denied her client’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury representing a cross-section of the community.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May 1987 that past Supreme Court decisions make clear the fair cross-section requirement of the Sixth Amendment does not apply to the jury itself, but only to the pool of potential jurors from which the jury is chosen.
″The fair cross-section requirement has no meaning or purpose unless it is extended beyond the jury pool,″ Ms. Unsinn said. ″The representative jury pool is not an end in itself.″
Therefore, she said Teague should be granted a new trial.
However, Assistant Illinois Attorney General David E. Bindi argued that it would be impossible to ensure a representative cross-section of the community for every trial and said the fact that Teague’s jury was all white did not necessarily deny him a fair trial.
″Cross-sectionalism is not the litmus test of impartiality,″ Bindi said. ″To equate jury impartiality with some form of mix on the jury ... is to take a dangerous step toward saying that juries be filled by quotas.″
″We are not asking that any quotas be imposed,″ Ms. Unsinn said. ″We are not asking that any affirmative action be imposed. We are simply saying that (selection of jurors) should not be a subversion.″
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case sometime next year.