Justices Find No Misconduct by Judge

Times Staff Writer

The California Supreme Court on Thursday rejected claims that a judge advised a prosecutor to remove prospective jurors from a death penalty trial because they were Jewish.

The justices found insufficient evidence of misconduct by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stanley Golde, who died in 1998. A misconduct finding could have led the courts to overturn dozens of death sentences.

The court also discounted claims that the Alameda County district attorney had a policy of barring not only Jews but also African American women from death penalty juries.


A former Alameda County prosecutor had alleged that Golde, who was Jewish, had advised removing Jewish jurors because of their perceived aversion to the death penalty.

The case had stirred wide attention because of the charges of illegal bias in jury selection and because of a study that concluded there was less than a 0.16% chance that prosecutors removed Jewish jurors from capital cases for reasons other than religion in Alameda County between 1977 and 1987.

Lawyers in criminal cases are allowed to remove a limited number of jurors for tactical reasons, but cannot dismiss them because of their race, gender or religion, or for certain other characteristics.

Golde presided over more death penalty trials in his 25 years on the bench than any other judge in Alameda County, although he personally opposed capital punishment. The allegations against Golde arose in an appeal of a man he sentenced to death.

Former Deputy Dist. Atty. John R. Quatman told defense appellate lawyers that Golde gave him some private advice in his chambers during the 1987 capital trial of Fred Harlan Freeman, who was sentenced to death for robbery and murder.

“Judge Golde called me into his chambers and asked rhetorically, ‘Quatman, what are you doing?’ ” Quatman said under oath. “When I asked what the problem was, he said I had not challenged a prospective juror who was Jewish.”


Golde “asked me if I was aware that when Adolf Eichmann was apprehended after World War II, there was a major controversy in Israel over whether he should be executed,” continued Quatman, who worked in the D.A.’s office for more than two decades and was friendly with Golde. “Judge Golde said no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber.”

Quatman said he thanked Golde for his advice and “thereafter excused any prospective juror who was Jewish.”

“Actually,” Quatman said, “Judge Golde was telling me what I already should have known to do. It was standard practice to exclude Jewish jurors in death cases; as it was to exclude African American women from capital juries.”

Citing Quatman’s remarks, defense lawyers filed a constitutional challenge to obtain a new trial for Freeman.

Faced with the explosive charges, the California Supreme Court asked a trial judge to hear evidence on the claims and report back.

After five days of testimony, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy found that Golde did not direct the prosecutor to excuse prospective jurors who were Jewish. Thursday’s ruling relied heavily on his report.


“It remains to be explained why Judge Golde would have perceived a need to commit misconduct by advising Quatman how to pick a jury at this very early stage,” Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote for the state Supreme Court.

Baxter also said that Quatman’s “character for honesty and integrity was poor.”

A former colleague testified that Quatman exaggerated a lot, and if “it didn’t serve his purpose, he wouldn’t tell the truth.” Other lawyers voiced similar concerns, but two testified that Quatman was honest.

Baxter pointed to evidence he said showed that Quatman had a motive for embarrassing his former boss, Alameda County Dist. Atty. Tom Orloff.

The court said Orloff had once disciplined Quatman for making disparaging remarks to a female subordinate and later refused to endorse him when he ran for judge.

“Unfortunately,” Baxter wrote, “Quatman’s bitterness did not mellow over the years.”

Justices Carol Corrigan and Ming Chin, who had been prosecutors in the Alameda County D.A.’s office, did not participate in the ruling.

Quatman left the office in 1998 and now practices law in Montana. He could not be reached for comment, and the attorneys who argued the case also were unavailable Thursday.