SF Asian Jurors ‘Improperly’ Excused Because of Their Race
May 1, 2021
SAN FRANCISCO, California—San Francisco Superior Court Judge Rita Lin tentatively found on Thursday, April 29, a public defender in a murder case unfairly excused prospective Asian jurors due to their race.
Judge Lin reversed an earlier ruling, after determining that three out of the nine Asian prospective jurors disqualified by public defender Max Breecker were excused for impermissible grounds after peremptory appeals, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The murder trial in question involves 38-year-old defendant Jo’Vaughn Timms, who allegedly fired and wounded his partner after an altercation in May 2018. The female victim is Asian and African-American.
Public defenders may have believed prospective Asian jurors have no sympathy for Timms—who is African-American—due to current climate of Black-on-Asian attacks in the Bay Area.
Similar tactics were used by the late Johnnie Cochran. He notoriously wanted more African-American women on the jury during the OJ Simpson murder trial in the mid-90s—believing they would be more sympathetic toward Simpson.
“In the jury process, Asian-American citizens in our community have a right to participate in this process and to sit as jurors and sit in judgment as anyone else does,” Lin stated in court on Thursday.
However, Lin did not call a mistrial, explaining on Monday that she may reconsider her earlier judgment that the dismissals were racially neutral.
Judge Lin based her initial decision on the Batson-Wheeler analysis, which clearly prohibits lawyers from excusing prospective jurors solely on the basis of their race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. Batson-Wheeler is often used when African-American jurors are wrongfully dismissed—not when the jurors are Asian.
“So, even if we may be satisfied with the jury that we have, we still have to be conscious of, and I am required by law to protect, the rights of patient American citizens to serve on juries,” Lin said.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Timms is charged with aggravated murder, robbery with a pistol, domestic abuse, and becoming a criminal in possession of a weapon.
Breecker said in court that his friend, who is African-American, was “disappointed” at the prospect of throwing a jury as diverse as the one the trial lawyers had already selected. The new jury is made up of Black, Asian, Latino, and white citizens.
“And we and the court is then saying ‘no, we have to do this again, and he is deeply troubled by that,” Breecker said. “He was very upset and he is very concerned that the court will show some bias against him.”