Lack of racial diversity leads judge to dismiss jury pool

By The Associated Press | Posted - May 13, 2015 at 1:52 p.m.



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FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa judge has dismissed a 112-member jury pool after determining that a black man charged with murder couldn't get a fair trial when all but one potential juror is white.

Tyrone Washington Jr., 41, of Northwood is accused in the August 2013 stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend, 30-year-old Justina Smith, the Globe Gazette (http://bit.ly/1ECeIPD ) reported.

Defense attorney Charles Kenville requested to have the entire jury pool stricken, and District Judge Colleen Weiland on Tuesday granted his motion.

Out of the 112 people in the jury pool, 111 had identified themselves as white. One juror identified himself as Native American.

Kenville said the lack of racial diversity wasn't intentional but that "the system is broken in Webster County and this court needs to fix it for Mr. Washington's rights to be upheld."

He called for a change in the computerized systems by which citizens are requested for jury service using Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles and voter registration records. Kenville said minority conviction rates decrease by 10 percent if a minority is a member of the jury panel.

According to 2013 census data, roughly 5 percent of residents in Webster County are black.

"The process should be delivering a roughly equivalent number," Kenville said, arguing the "substantial underrepresentation" of blacks would hinder his client's ability to get a fair trial.

A new trial date hasn't been set. The case is expected to remain in Webster County, about 80 miles north of Des Moines.

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Information from: Globe Gazette, http://www.globegazette.com/

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The Associated Press

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