By Ivan Villegas
NEW YORK, NY – New York law professors and non-profit Civil Rights Corps this week filed 10 ethics complaints against former and current New York prosecutors, alleging they improperly attempted to remove prospective jurors.
In a news release by Civil Rights Corps, the group explained the prosecutors allegedly tried to remove “Black, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, and white woman potential jurors.
“Despite over a century of litigation declaring discriminatory jury strikes unconstitutional, the cases highlighted by these complaints strongly suggest that the practice among prosecutors continues,” said Civil Rights Corps.
The group added that “studies have shown that all-white and generally less representative juries increase the chances of a guilty verdict…and nearly all the complaints involve an allegation that the prosecutor removed, or tried to remove, at least one Black juror.”
The news release notes one complaint references a Manhattan trial in which the accused represented himself and objected, with no success, to the prosecutor removing all Black potential jurors.
In a case cited in another complaint, “ex-prosecutor Christopher McGrath, [was] caught using ugly, racist notes in jury selection in three separate Queens cases where McGrath removed jurors of color and women.”
Although these three cases were eventually reversed, “still today, according to NY Attorney Detail Report,” McGrath continues to practice law…with “no record of public discipline.”
McGrath wasn’t the only one with no record of public discipline.
According to the news release, “all of the prosecutors named [in the complaints] have ‘no record of public discipline.’”
“The [law] professors call on the Grievance Committee to investigate jury trials in Queens from 1990 to the present to determine whether the racist notes from McGrath’s files were used by other prosecutors and uncover whether prosecutors discriminated against prospective jurors in those trials.”
Steve Zeidman, Professor at CUNY School of Law and one of the authors of the complaints, explained that “as law professors, one of the most basic things we teach is ethics and professional responsibility. Removing jurors based on their race defies even the most basic principles of ethical, let alone constitutional or moral, behavior.”
Bina Ahmad, Senior Attorney at Civil Rights Corp, added that “given the racist history of this country and deliberate use of all-white juries to convict the accused of color, the fact that prosecutors continue to remove jurors of color and face no accountability is an indictment of not only prosecutors but our entire legal system.”