Kentucky prosecutor withdraws effort to bar judge from criminal cases

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 05, 2015 2:16 PM

By Steve Bittenbender

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - A white Louisville prosecutor has agreed to withdraw his motion to remove a black judge who had criticized him from trying criminal cases after the parties reached an agreement through mediation, the state said on Saturday.

Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine and Judge Olu Stevens also agreed to let the state Supreme Court decide whether a judge can reject a seated jury because of its racial makeup and agreed "neither is a racist," according to an accord signed by both men.

Stevens has rejected seated juries in a couple of cases with black defendants, prompting Wine to question the legality of those decisions.

Last month, Stevens said in a posting on Facebook that history would look unfavorably on a prosecutor claiming he was entitled to an all-white jury. Wine then sought to have Stevens barred from trying criminal cases.

Thomas Minton, the state's chief justice ordered the mediation last month, after he received Wine's request.

"The parties recognize they have certain responsibilities under the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Code of Judicial Conduct," the agreement stated. "The parties recognize and agree that issues concerning the parties should no longer be addressed by posts or comments on social media."

The rift between the judge and prosecutor has sparked a debate in Louisville, where blacks make up more than a fifth of the population, regarding the jury selection process.

(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Ky, Editing by Ben Klayman and Alan Crosby)