Ky. Court of Appeals rules against Olu Stevens, says juries don' - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. Court of Appeals rules against Olu Stevens, says juries don't have to reflect community

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Judge Olu Stevens Judge Olu Stevens

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Court of Appeals has ruled against Judge Olu Stevens’ decision to dismiss a jury from a trial in February because there were not enough black members.

The decision, released Wednesday, says a judge does not have the authority to dismiss a jury unless it can be proven that a certain group has been deliberately prevented from joining the jury pool.

Stevens dismissed the jury panel in Charles Evans’ robbery and assault trial last month because there were only a few black members. Afterward, the judge sealed the case and ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys not to talk about what happened.

In a decision written by Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Irv Maze, the appeals court has ordered Judge Stevens “not to dismiss future jury panels unless affirmative testimonial requirements … are met, leading the court to conclude that there was evidence of systematic exclusion.”

Citing previous cases, Maze wrote, “...the law requires that the pool from which a jury panel is selected represent a fair cross-section; however, it does not require that the jury panel itself accurately reflect the community.”

Maze’s decision notes Evans objected to the panel because he didn’t feel it was a representative cross-section of the community.

“Evans’ attorneys [argued] the system itself is inherently discriminatory because the rolls from which jurors are summoned may exclude certain groups, and too often those who are summoned simply fail to report for service,” Maze wrote.

"Just because the law says it, does that make it right? Of course not," Louisville Attorney Aubrey Williams said about the jury process. 

Williams, who used to represent Judge Stevens, says too often African American clients are left with an all white jury. 

"Minority litigants, minority people are not getting a fair shake," he explained. 

Williams argues the system needs to change. 

Change could come from Kentucky's Supreme Court, which is also reviewing the issue. 

Judge Stevens first came under fire after dismissing a jury in a Nov. 2014 trial because there were not any black jurors when the defendant was black. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office argued that was not within Stevens power and has taken the case to Kentucky’s Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court heard arguments last week but we're told the justices likely won't announce a decision for months. 

Judge Stevens did not return our call requesting comment. 

A spokesperson for the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office says the opinion speaks for itself, but they are pleased the Court of Appeals agreed with their position. 

You can read the full opinion here.

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