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Race Card Is Played

THE PEREZ TRIAL Jury makeup in corruption case should have no bearing on outcome

Hartford Courant Editorial

April 13, 2010

Defense attorney Hubert Santos might be stirring up an issue that otherwise wouldn't exist in Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez's bribery and larceny trial, which began Monday with jury selection.

The issue? The racial composition of the jury and how it might affect the outcome of the trial. Mr. Perez is Hartford's first Hispanic mayor.

Mr. Santos, representing the mayor, said in papers filed with the court that the "absence of minority representation on jury panels and a generalized anti-Hartford bias from the towns and cities surrounding Hartford may make it impossible for the defendant to receive a fair trial in the Judicial District of Hartford." That's a sweeping generality that leads to a questionable conclusion. If Mr. Perez can't get a fair trial in Hartford, where can he?

Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey rightly rejected Mr. Santos' request that the trial be moved if the defense concludes that the jurors who are picked for the case could not render a fair verdict. There is no established pattern of bias that would back up such a request.

It would be ideal if jury pools always reflected a jurisdiction's diversity.

It's true, especially in times past in this country, that racial bias has animated white jury verdicts against minority defendants. Sometimes bias goes the other way: The O.J. Simpson murder trial in California is an example.

But these are exceptions not typical of justice in Connecticut.

It's insulting to jurors of any race or ethnicity to suggest, as Mr. Santos seems to do, that they are likely to consider evidence and argument through a racial lens and determine guilt or innocence based on skin color or culture.

Waving the bloody shirt of race does not serve justice.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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