A judge’s comments that she would refuse to seat an all-white jury have raised eyebrows in Chicago’s Cook County Criminal Court, says the Chicago Tribune. “Folks, you all know I have a rule; I don’t seat all white jurors,” Circuit Judge Evelyn Clay said as a jury was being picked to hear a murder trial last month. Clay admitted that her remarks were “indelicately stated,” but she believes that qualified African-Americans were being left off juries without good reason.
Clay, who is African-American, made the remarks in chambers before three separate trials. In one case, she said, “I have no intention of seating an all-white jury.” Northwestern University law Prof. Ronald Allen called the judge’s comments extraordinary. “I’ve never heard of a judge making such a statement, and I think it was ill-advised to do so publicly,” he said. “It injects an unfortunate racial element into the matter, and quite frankly it raises very serious questions about whether [the judge] is discriminating against whites.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that it was a violation of the constitution to keep blacks off juries solely because of their race. The court found that the public’s confidence in the fairness of the system would be damaged. It is reasonable to expect that almost any random selection of 12 people from Cook County would contain at least one minority, experts said. Some lawyers who work at the Criminal Courts Building see no problem with a judge taking a stand for diversity on juries.