HOUSTON—An attorney for a white Houston police officer acquitted of the beating of a black teenager is explaining why an all-white jury was picked in the racially sensitive case.
"I would love to have had a black American on this jury to deflect this kind of criticism, but the fact is that no one qualified," said Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin.
DeGuerin successfully defended former Houston Police Officer Andrew Blomberg, one of four officers charged with official oppression for the videotaped beating of the burglary suspect.
A jury pool is selected randomly by computer from a list of voter registrations and driver registrations from the county in which they live.
The judge in the case sealed documents containing juror information, but DeGuerin said attorneys started with a pool of about 74 people.
Of those, 42 were white, 13 Hispanic, 13 African-American, three Asian and three potential jurors didn’t specify.
DeGuerin said most of the African-Americans on the panel were eliminated by the judge because they admitted they had previously viewed the video and formed opinions about it.
"Almost all of them said they had already made up their minds. They had already seen the video and they couldn’t get past it, and that was it," said DeGuerin.
Each attorney then got an opportunity to strike remaining members of the panel, based on further questioning.
The defense used two of its peremptory strikes for the two remaining African-Americans. One man said he had been falsely arrested more than 30 times, and the other worked for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
"I’d be a fool to leave somebody from the District Attorney’s Office on the jury. That would be like somebody from my office on the jury," said DeGuerin.
The question that many are asking is why there was a racial imbalance with the original jury pool.
"I think the overwhelming truth that has always been is that you have more Caucasians showing up for jury duty when the voir dire process starts," said KHOU Legal Expert Gerald Treece.
Treece has no explanation as to why there is an imbalance, but he says it’s typical of a Harris County jury.
"This isn’t unusual," said Treece. "I think the answer is let’s try and educate the community about the need to show up for jury duty."
Until then, Treece said the racial makeup of Harris County juries will continue to be unbalanced.