Tenn. Courts Yet to Reverse on Jury Racial Discrimination

By Barchenger, Stacey | News Sentinel, May 24, 2016 | Go to article overview

Tenn. Courts Yet to Reverse on Jury Racial Discrimination


Barchenger, Stacey, News Sentinel


NASHVILLE -- No criminal court case has been reversed by Tennessee's appeals courts because of racial discrimination in jury selection, making the state the standout among its neighbors in the Southeast.

A 2010 study by a national advocacy organization found that of eight southern states, only Tennessee's appeals courts have not reversed rulings because of the issue. Multiple lawyers confirmed to The Tennessean that no cases had been overturned or sentences changed in more recent years.

That should not lead one to think discrimination doesn't happen, said Assistant Federal Public Defender Alexis J. Soler, who studies the issue.

"Tennessee is the only state in the Southeast where state appellate courts have never granted ... relief in a criminal case," Soler said, naming the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case Batson v. Kentucky. That case dictated that lawyers, defense attorneys and prosecutors could not dismiss a potential juror only because of the juror's race.

"Unfortunately, it is not because our state is free from racial discrimination in jury selection, but rather, because our legal system is reluctant to recognize, and remedy, when prosecutors illegally rely on race to impanel juries," she said.

Defense lawyers raised a discrimination claim against prosecutors in a Nashville courtroom in April. But they weren't the only ones to say something: A juror spoke up to ask about diversity requirements. What he said indicated jurors had discussed the case and led Criminal Court Judge Cheryl Blackburn to dismiss the jury pool.

A new trial in the case was scheduled to begin Monday.

Police say Terance Bradley, 34, and Hurley L. Brown, 21, who are both black, attacked two people during a fight on July 29, 2014, in Madison, Tenn. Shots were fired and two men were injured, according to an arrest affidavit.

Bradley and Brown are charged with aggravated burglary, being felons in possession of weapons and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Their relatives spoke out in April, saying that every black person called up from a jury pool for questioning on April 18, the day the previous trial was supposed to begin, was eliminated. …

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