Firm mulls suit over allegations blacks excluded from juries

AP News
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Posted: Aug 17, 2015 6:45 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A civil rights law firm has put a Louisiana District Attorney's Office on notice of a possible lawsuit over allegations the office excludes black people from juries because of their race.

The MacArthur Justice Foundation on Monday released a copy of a letter it sent to Caddo Parish Acting District Attorney Dale Cox, advising him of the possibility of a lawsuit and demanding that his office preserve documents that might be used as evidence in such a suit.

The foundation said it represents African-American citizens of Caddo, a Parish in the northwestern corner of the state, who are concerned that prosecutors are motivated by race when they use their authority to exclude potential jury members without giving a reason.

The MacArthur Justice Foundation's New Orleans office released the letter along with a news release citing data by the anti-death penalty group Reprieve Australia.

"The data shows that the District Attorney's Office, over the course of two different District Attorneys, has struck eligible African-American jurors three times more frequently than other jurors," Jim Craig, co-director of MacArthur's New Orleans office, said in a news release.

The study cited data from 332 juries empaneled between Jan. 28, 2003, and Dec. 5, 2012. It said that in juries with two or fewer black members, there were no acquittals. The acquittal rate for juries with three or more black jurors was 12 percent.

"We deny (the allegations) categorically," Cox said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press later Monday.

"We do not systematically exclude African-Americans. It's illegal. It's unethical and it would be stupid to do that since 90 percent our victims are African-Americans and we want good African-American people on those panels since they are the voice of the community where most of these crimes are taking place."

Cox said his office had also began a policy regarding records preservation.

"We've implemented a policy not to destroy anything hence forward until the lawsuit is filed and we can get this case adjudicated," he said.