Judge accepts suspension after jury diversity row

The judge made controversial comments after a lawyer disputed his dismissal of a jury panel for not being racially diverse enough.

A Kentucky judge has accepted a 90-day suspension to end a snafu over his past decision to dismiss a case’s jury panel for not being racially diverse enough.
According to The Associated Press, Louisville judge Olu Stevens, who is black, has agreed to be suspended without pay in an agreement with lawyers of the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission.
The commission could have reprimanded the judge or banished him from the bench.
The mess involved prosecutor Tom Wine, who is white, who asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to review Stevens’ decision to dismiss a random jury panel for not reflecting the racial diversity of the community even without evidence that there was an deliberate effort to exclude minorities.
In comments made on social media, Stevens said that Wine’s request for review is akin to trying “to protect the right to impanel all-white juries,” the AP noted. The judge also said there was “something more sinister” and that Wine will “live in infamy.”
“I recognize how serious it is to accuse someone, either expressly or implicitly, of racism,” Stevens told the commission. “I do not believe Tom Wine is a racist. I apologize for any statements that implied as much.”
For his part, Wine said that he has had “no personal animosity toward Judge Stevens” and that he has “none now”.
“I believe my energies and focus are better spent working for justice and fairness with our criminal justice partners and protecting victims of crim,” he said.
Stevens vowed to “rule on all cases that come before me based solely upon the facts and the law.”
The jury panel Stevens dismissed was for a 2014 trial of a black defendant.
Of 41 people who reported for jury duty in the case, only one of the prospect jurors was black. Stevens initially denied a motion for the defence to dismiss the panel, noting that the jury was selected at random even though the lack of diversity was unusual.
The city’s population is 23% black, the AP noted.
The black juror still remained as selection was near-completion. The court clerk had to resort to a random drawing of names as there were still four jurors more than needed.
After the black juror’s name was drawn and struck from the jury panel, Stevens reneged and ordered the panel be dismissed.
The defendant was acquitted by another jury in 2015 which was when Wine asked for the Supreme Court review.

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