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Ruling on Bias in Jury Selection

I strongly commend the brave and righteous decision reached by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana (“Conviction in Murder Set Aside for Bias,” March 18), which found racial bias in the tactics of an Orange County prosecutor for excluding all Latinos from the jury in a case where a Latino was the defendant.

Still, Orange County does not have a monopoly on such tactics. I would venture to claim that the tactics used by the deputy district attorney in 1983 to exclude Latino jurors are widespread and well-entrenched tactics practiced by district attorneys across the Southwest. Clearly, such a scheme could not occur without the express or tacit sanction and approval of the more senior, supervising attorneys.

In my opinion, that “gut feeling” that Orange County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. James G. Enright has, as it applies to Latinos, his assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, is a totally ludicrous, groundless and erroneous, entrenched belief that Latino jurors are, somehow, inherently incapable of rendering a verdict solely on the merits of a case if a Latino is on trial.

Whether subtle or overt, intentional or unintentional, this is the clear underlying signal the deputy D.A.s are perceiving; it overtly manifested itself in the deputy D.A.'s peremptory challenges to exclude all five potential Latino jurors from the trial.

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Years ago, while a student at Western State University College of Law (Class of 1982), an adjunct professor told a group of us that when he was an Orange County deputy district attorney he never allowed a Latino to sit on a jury if the defendant was a Latino. His reasoning was that the Latino juror could too closely identify with the Latino defendant on trial. (In an awkward, indirect fashion his reasoning acknowledges a pervasive anti-Latino sentiment.)

Later, he told us that he told court personnel that in Orange County there were two languages used in his court, English and turkey--turkey was Spanish.

Much to our chagrin, it became plainly evident that his strategy was merely a pretext to exercise and perpetuate racism, bigotry and intolerance toward Latinos.

In a parallel case, the court has found such tactics impermissible. Now, at last, this unanimous, 3-0, decision, in effect, puts the Orange County district attorney’s office on notice that “impermissible group bias against Latinos” in jury selections will not be tolerated.

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I hope only that “Georgie’s judges” on the California Supreme Court do not reverse this noble, correct and progressive decision. Justice for all in America must mean justice for all--including Orange County.

GEORGE C. BALDERAS

Corona


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