Prosecutor Wants Judge Recused from all Criminal Cases because of Facebook Comments
This is the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between Judge Olu Stevens and the Kentucky Prosecutor who represents the greater Louisville area, Tom Wine. As some will recall, Judge Stevens dismissed an empanelled jury last year because it had no African-Americans. The jury panel in that case had 41 people of whom only one was an African-American. According to Judge Olu Stevens, “[t]here is not a single African-American on this jury and (the defendant) is an African-American man…I cannot in good conscious go forward with this jury.” Currently, African-Americans make-up 21% of the population in Jefferson County. This was the second time that Judge Stevens dismissed a jury due to a lack of diversity.
Not surprisingly, Wine responded to the judge’s actions with a petition to the Kentucky Supreme Court asking that court to determine whether Stevens has the authority to dismiss juries based on racial composition. Rather than await the state court’s decision, it appears that the judge has taken to Facebook to voice his views on the subject. According to the affidavit of the Commonwealth Prosecutor, Judge Stevens has made the following Facebook posts about the pending matter:
Going to the Kentucky Supreme Court to protect the right to impanel all-white juries is not where we need to be in 2015.
If people, particularly affected people, would stand up and call him [Wine] out, he would go right back in his corner
Do not sit silently. Stand up. Speak up.
History will unfavorably judge a prosecutor who loses a jury trial in which a black man is acquitted and then appeals the matter claiming his entitlement to an all white jury panel
We have a chance to prove the commonwealth is about progression and not regression
We have the opportunity to stand for inclusion and not exclusion.
At least initially, the Commonwealth Prosecutor was able to get the judge recused from two pending criminal cases because of the Facebook posts. It remains to be seen whether the state high court will remove all pending criminal cases from the judge and or allow any state judge to dismiss a jury or jury panel because it lacks diversity.