CINCINNATI (AP) — As jurors begin hearing a racially charged police shooting case in Cincinnati, some critics say it’s time to change Ohio’s requirement of potential jurors being registered to vote.
Ohio is one of just two states that populates its jury pool strictly through voter registration records, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported (http://cin.ci/2eMytkM). A majority of states draw from both voter registration and driver’s license records.
Leaders of Cincinnati’s black community are concerned that using only registered voters creates racial disparity in selecting juries.
“Using just voter registration has not been helpful enough to come up with diverse jury pools,” said state Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Cincinnati Democrat. “There is a tremendous amount of opportunity to control and manipulate juries.”
Black Lives Matter activists based in Cincinnati were critical of the jury seated Monday for the murder trial of a white former police officer charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man. They said on their Facebook page that the jury of only two black females and no black males doesn’t reflect Cincinnati’s population. The 2010 census reported that nearly 45 percent of the city’s population is black.
A study conducted by Duke University researchers in 2012 found that a diverse jury pool eliminates racial gaps in conviction rates.
“The whole point is for the master jury list to be as inclusive as possible,” said Greg Hurley, a senior analyst with the National Center for State Courts.
The first of six recommendations made by “The Report of the Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness” was to expand the state’s jury selection process. No changes have been made in that regard since the report was first issued in 1999.
Cincinnati civil rights lawyer Al Gerhardstein brought attention to the issue at the Ohio Bar Association’s spring meeting. He’s part of the legal team representing the family of the slain black motorist, Sam DuBose.
“We’re very late,” Gerhardstein said. “It’s very important. There’s a fire under many people to get this changed.”
DuBose was fatally shot by since-fired University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing during a July 2015 traffic stop.
Tensing has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in DuBose’s death. Tensing’s attorney has said his client feared for his life. The jury seated has two blacks and 10 whites, with four white women as alternates.
“When the jury looks like the community, it helps to maintain the rule of law and public trust in the process,” said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a professor at the University of Dayton School of Law.
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com
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