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Rodney King Jury

February 28, 1993

Jury selection in the second trial of the policemen who beat Rodney King highlights something that is fundamentally unsound in the jurisprudence system when it comes to African-Americans and other nonwhites: The system allows discrimination by attorneys on the basis of race.

Twice in L.A. County I have answered the civic call to jury duty. However, I was always dismissed from panels that involved criminal offenses when blacks or Latinos were the defendants, while being readily accepted by attorneys for civil cases between same race or mixed race litigants. The first time this happened, I thought it was mere coincidence. When it happened on my second jury duty last year, I asked other potential jurors of color about their experience and found many shared mine. It seems to be very difficult for black defendants to get a trial with a jury of six or more African-Americans. Why is that?

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have entirely too much leeway for illegitimate discriminatory practices in jury selection. It's as if everyone winks at the notion that if the defendant is white, he should be judged by whites and if he is nonwhite, he still should be judged by whites.

I grew up in the South when Jim Crow was the law. I also helped abolish that discredited system. I have never forgotten the scuzzy feeling I always got whenever I was being treated with less regard because of my race. That is why I will not answer a call to jury service in L.A. County again until something is done about the exclusion of people of color from juries. DOROTHY LOVE

Los Angeles

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