October 28, 2008
By Areva Martin, Esq.
The issue of the jury selection in O.J. Simpson's current trial is going to be enormous. We can definitely expect an appeal on the basis of the jury selection process if there is a guilty verdict. O.J.'s attorneys fought to have two African-American women included in order to prevent an all-white jury.
Under a 1986 Supreme Court case, Batson v. Kentucky, the Court overturned a 1965 case which held that a challenge to juror selection on the basis of race could only be sustained if the defendant could establish systematic exclusion in multiple cases over a number of years. The Batson case overturned this decision and held that the exclusion of one juror on the basis of race is a violation of a defendant's constitutional rights under the Sixth and 14th Amendments.
In O.J.'s Las Vegas trial, the judge allowed the district attorney to offer what she termed as "race neutral" reasons for his exclusion of the two African-American women. The district attorney argued that the women were deeply religious, and that he believed one would be inclined to forgive O.J. and the other one stated that she would have a hard time sending someone to prison.
The lack of diversity on the jury definitely reinforces century-old issues of race and diversity and the essence of the Sixth Amendment. Without doubt, we should expect an appeal on the Batson decision in the event of a guilty verdict.
Finally, it's doubtful that O.J. could ever get a fair trial. After his 1995 acquittal, the country was split along racial lines over whether the decision was fair. For many, this current trial is an opportunity to right the wrong of the L.A. jury, which found O.J. not guilty. Despite what people think about the former football star and the decision in the murder trial, he deserves a fair trial by a jury of his peers.
Areva Martin, Esq. is the owner of the law firm Martin & Martin, LLP, and also manages the non-profit organization Special Needs Network. For more information, visit her Web site at www.arevamartin.com.