Court Affirms Gadfly’s Conviction : Law: Al Ramirez was found guilty in 1989 of disrupting a meeting of the City Council. He plans a further appeal.
A jury’s conviction of political gadfly Al Ramirez for disrupting a Pomona City Council meeting has been affirmed by an appellate panel that weighed whether jobless people can be excluded from juries.
A three-judge panel in the Appellate Department of Los Angeles Superior Court issued an opinion in June that would have overturned the conviction but withdrew the ruling a few weeks later to rethink the matter.
Now, the panel says, the conviction should stand.
Ramirez, 65, was convicted in 1989 on a misdemeanor charge of disrupting a Pomona City Council meeting by shouting at Mayor Donna Smith and refusing her demand to be quiet or leave.
Ramirez appealed the conviction, claiming that people with Latino surnames were systematically excluded by the prosecutor when the jury was impaneled in Pomona Municipal Court.
The judges found no racial or ethnic discrimination in the jury selection but reversed the conviction on grounds that the prosecutor improperly disqualified a woman from the panel because she was unemployed.
In a 2-1 decision, the jurists said such actions constituted economic discrimination.
The district attorney’s office urged the panel to reconsider, arguing that the unemployed are not a distinct group whose exclusion from a jury would be discriminatory.
In an unusual action, the judges withdrew their opinion and agreed to rethink the issue. They issued a new decision Aug. 13, upholding the conviction after concluding it was permissible to exclude a jobless person from the jury.
The jurists said the unemployed do not share a common perspective since their numbers can include people ranging from homeless beggars to the idle rich.
Thus, excluding an unemployed person from a jury, the judges said, would not eliminate any particular perspective or interfere with the defendant’s right to be tried by a cross section of the community.
Ramirez also appealed on free speech grounds. But the judges held that the First Amendment does not give a person the right to break up or disturb a public meeting.
Ramirez interrupted the council meeting while a city staff member was speaking at length after members of the public had been told that they could speak for only five minutes each.
During the staff presentation, Ramirez shouted: “How much time does this man get?”
The judges said Ramirez was warned several times by Smith that he was out of order and should be quiet but persisted in disrupting the meeting. He was removed from the proceeding by a police officer and taken to jail.
Ramirez, who now lives in Hemet, said he has asked his attorney to appeal to a higher court.
If the conviction stands, he would be required to complete 25 hours of community service, the sentence imposed by Pomona Municipal Judge Jack Hunt nearly two years ago.