Toward that end, Serena and his legal team that included James Hammer and Whitney Leigh, produced statistics that showed a 13.5 percent discrepancy between expected and actual Latino composition.
U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ruled that the three year time period was not long enough to demonstrate substantial underrepresentation of Latinos. Moreover, they did not have direct evidence of intent to discriminate.
Over the past 10 years, Latinos have only been underrepresented by 6.5 percent which would be equivalent of around one juror on average. This was not enough to demonstrate a violation under the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
However, Judge Damrell did say that while he could not consider solely the last three years, he did find the higher disparity in the last three years to be troubling. The Sacramento Bee quotes him as saying “Unaddressed or ignored, this continuing disparity is likely to provide future evidence of systemic underrepresentation of a constitutional dimension.”
The defendants in this case were Judges Steve Mock and Thomas Warriner along with Jury Commissioner Robin Weaver.
According to the lawsuit filed, “the lack of specific rules for grand jury selection in Yolo County has left it open to abuse.” Serena and his attorneys argued that residents of Latino decent comprise around 26 percent of the population but only 5 to 11 percent of the make up of the grand jury.
While the suit was dismissed, local civil rights groups can take some comfort from the ruling that Yolo County is on notice to improve their record of the racial composition of grand juries. This is a vital link between the citizenry and the justice system.
Unfortunately it appears at this time, that in order for action to be taken the situation must continue for the next few years. That is unfortunate not only for Mr. Serena who is facing criminal prosecution for his role in the Yolo County Housing Authority, but also minorities in this county who seems to have their rights violated on a regular basis through the criminal justice system.
The Judge’s ruling gives a reprieve to Judge Mock and Judge Warriner, but they will remain under scrutiny if they do not figure out ways to remedy the situation.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting