Court to Settle Dispute over All-White Jury

September 30, 2009 - 12:36 PM
The Supreme Court will decide whether a man's murder conviction should have been thrown out because there were too few African Americans in a county's jury pool in Michigan.
Washington (AP) - The Supreme Court will decide whether a man's murder conviction should have been thrown out because there were too few African Americans in a county's jury pool in Michigan.
 
State officials are asking the high court to overturn a decision by the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
 
That court threw out the murder conviction of Diapolis Smith for shooting a man in Grand Rapids in 1991.
 
Smith, who is black, was found guilty by an all-white jury. He said his constitutional right to a jury that represents the community was violated because there were only three blacks in the pool of 60 to 100 prospective jurors.
 
He argued that Kent County's prospective jurors in 1993 were routinely excused because of child care, a lack of transportation or a conflict with work. Smith also said blacks in Grand Rapids were being diverted to jury duty in a city court, which took them off the rolls for a year.
 
Blacks in the city made up 85 percent of all blacks in the county.
 
The appeals court said those decisions resulted in fewer African-Americans being eligible for service on circuit court juries, calling it "systematic exclusion."
 
The case is Berghuis v. Smith, 08-1402.