LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Two months after the trial of former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings ended in a mistrial, there has been a flurry of filings at the courthouse as all involved prepare for round two.
Many of the filings focus on race, including a controversial proposal from the judge.
Some define insanity as doing something the same way and expecting a different result. That may be why Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen wants to do things a little differently for Hastings' second trial.
When it comes to seating the jury for the second manslaughter trial of former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings, Judge Griffen says he will be asking the questions.
Griffen notes that during the seating of the first jury "...five peremptory challenges were exercised concerning persons of color" by the defense. And Griffen says "...the state did not challenge" the exclusion of those jurors.
The end result was an all-white jury hearing the case of a white police officer who shot and killed a black suspect.
In a pretrial order Judge Griffen warns that "This court will not be 'a willing participant in a scheme' to arrive at a trial outcome...based on racial discrimination in jury selection." (inner quote from a U.S. Supreme Court decision written by Justice Blackmum, Georgia v. McCollum).
Prosecutors and defense attorneys are in rare agreement in opposing the idea of Judge Griffen taking over the questioning of jurors.
In a motion prosecutor John Johnson argues that prosecutors didn't object because the defense had valid, race-neutral reasons for each juror it challenged. For example, one juror had epilepsy that affected her memory. Another refused to answer some of the defense counsel's questions. Another had a past conviction of Obstructing Governmental Operations. And yet another told the defense that he felt that sometimes people in power (meaning the police) got away with things the average person would not.
Johnson also states in his motion that Judge Griffen excused many African Americans from service before questioning even began. "These strikes by the Court diluted the percentage of persons of color on the entire jury panel, thereby reducing the chances that larger numbers of African Americans would be seated in the jury box."
"The idea that a minority on the jury is just simply going to find my client guilty or not guilty because of their race is ridiculous," says Bill James, attorney for Josh Hastings. "I've certainly had a lot of juries that were blacks that found blacks guilty and whites that found whites guilty. So, you know, we need people that are fair."
James filed over 20 motions this past week including motions asking Judge Griffen to clarify his plan for jury selection, to dismiss the case altogether, asking Judge Griffen to recuse himself and asking for a change of venue.
Air date: August 21st, 2013
Home News Weather Sports Video About Us Newslinks Community Follow Us Fun and Games Blogs KATV/FCC Public File
Employment Contact KATV Credit Application and Advertising Terms and Conditions KATV Programming EEO Report