A federal judge in California ruled Tuesday that Sacramento County attorneys used skin color to improperly exclude the only two African-Americans in a jury pool, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The case involves a former Black inmate who attempted suicide while incarcerated. He is suing Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who is White, and three sheriff’s employees for a lack of psychiatric care and assault while in jail.
County attorneys said they struck one potential Black juror because that individual had a friend who attempted suicide. However, U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez noted that the lawyers did not strike three non-Black jurors who said they had close friends or relatives who committed suicide.
The attorneys stated that they excluded the other Black person from the jury because he had “scant education.” But Mendez highlighted that the man completed some college, yet the attorneys kept two non-Black jurors who had only high school degrees and no college.
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Dan Stormer, the plaintiff’s lawyer, told the newspaper that public officials should never discriminate in the jury process. “They have a higher duty to the public and their constituencies,” he added.
In 2013, James Joshua Mayfield attempted suicide by jumping off a bunk bed head first in his jail cell but paralyzed himself. Mayfield, now 22, said the jail staff knew he was mentally ill and had previously attempted suicide. He also alleges that sheriff’s deputies and inmates assaulted him while in jail.
Mendez dismissed the jury and plans to restart the selection process on May 8.