Precinct 333

Thursday, December 23, 2004

No Discrimination Against Religious In Jury Picks

I'm amazed this was even an issue.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The state's highest court ruled Wednesday that New Jersey prosecutors cannot bar overtly religious people from serving on juries.

The 6-0 ruling by the state Supreme Court overturned an appellate court decision and ordered a new trial for Lloyd Fuller, who was convicted in 2000 of armed robbery in Essex County and is serving a 14-year term.

Apparently a prosecutor decided to strike a former missionary and an individual he believed to be muslim from the jury because he believed that "demonstrably religious persons are all alike in sharing defense-minded sympathies".

And here is an example of someone finding the bright side of losing a case.
State Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, whose office had defended the exclusion, said the ruling would be "very helpful to prosecutors."

"We now have clarity on how peremptory challenges can be used when people are wearing overt religious symbols," Harvey said. "I'm really happy that the court shares our view that we shouldn't be asking prospective jurors detailed questions about their religious beliefs. At the same time, the court has given trial judges and lawyers flexibility to explore bias that may arise from a person's beliefs by permitting the court to conduct an inquiry about a juror's ability to be fair."

In other words, the court gave guidelines that any reasonably intelligent tenth grader could have formulated -- "You can't exclude people from juries because of their religion unless there is a reason to believe they cannot fairly judge the evidence." I wonder how much this fiasco cost the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey.


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