Potential Racial and Gang-Related Juror Bias Discussed in Juror Selection Hearing for Upcoming Double Homicide Trial

By Anna Olsen

ALAMEDA, CA – Judge Thomas Reardon questioned potential jurors about possible racial and gang-related bias they might possess during a Tuesday morning pretrial jury selection hearing here in Alameda County Superior Court for the upcoming trial of Eric Estrada.

Estrada, a Latino man and an alleged gang member, faces murder and gang enhancement charges for a gang-related double homicide that took place in August of 2013.

During a Tuesday morning jury selection hearing, Judge Reardon emphasized to the potential jury the necessity to “listen objectively and fairly to the evidence and make a decision if the charge has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Please ask yourself, am I afraid of Mr. Estrada, am I afraid to do my job as a juror? Please tell me if you feel like you have an emotional response to Mr. Estrada that would make it difficult for you to serve on the jury,” Judge Reardon stated.

Multiple potential jurors spoke up regarding their concerns about the systemic racism and discrimination present in the criminal justice system that could impact the way in which Estrada is sentenced as a Latino individual.

“I think it’s impossible to extract what we are doing here from a system of systematic racism by unconscious and conscious bias that we all live in. I think we just can’t,” one potential juror stated.

Another potential juror brought up the idea, “We have so much data on the justice system and sentencing, and people of color receive longer sentences for the same crimes as white people.”

Judge Reardon responded to these concerns and emphasized the importance of separating these larger societal concerns from the evidence presented in this particular case.

“The due process goal is that the determination be made based upon the evidence and the law as we know it and not based upon our larger social concerns,” the judge said.

The fact that “there are too many Latino people who have been convicted of crimes shouldn’t affect whether or not there is proof that Mr. Estrada committed this crime,” Judge Reardon argued. “Let’s do our best not to solve all of society’s problems. And that’s a challenge.”

Additionally, the status of Estrada as a past gang member was discussed.

It was emphasized to the jurors that it is not illegal to be in a gang, and that Estrada is entitled to the presumption of innocence regardless of his status as a gang member.

“Will the knowledge that Mr. Estrada is a gang member affect your ability to serve as a fair juror?,” Judge Reardon asked potential jurors.

One juror argued that the status of an individual as a gang member “has a bias and connotation that is carried with it.”

Estrada’s trial will reconvene this Friday morning.

About The Author

Anna Olsen is a recent UC Berkeley graduate originally from Seattle, WA. She double majored in law and global studies and plans to head to law school after taking a gap year to become a juvenile defense attorney.

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