Judge Scolds Prosecutors for Dismissing Gay Juror
A San Diego judge dismissed an entire jury panel Tuesday, after prosecutors rejected a gay man as a potential juror in a same-sex marriage case.
Superior Court Judge Joan Weber ruled defendants in the case were denied a representative jury and called the actions of the city attorney’s office "shocking," U-T San Diego reported.
Her ruling means the lawyers will have to pick a new panel if the case goes to trial.
The case stems from the Aug. 19, 2010, arrest of nine people who were protesting Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, at the county clerk’s office. Defense attorneys say the peaceful protest did not disrupt business.
Prosecutors said in court that the potential juror indicated he had protested in support of gay rights issues in the past, so they deemed him an unsuitable juror for the case.
Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones said that the case is only about whether defendants unlawfully blocked the operation of the county clerk’s office.
"It has nothing to do with same-sex marriage," Jones said.
Attorneys for the accused activists disagreed, saying prosecutors systematically excluded gay people from the jury.
"There has been a fundamental violation of a constitutional right to a jury trial by my client’s peers," said Todd Moore, an attorney representing one of the defendants.
Six defendants still face charges in the case. The other three accepted a deal last year to plead no contest to an infraction and had their cases dismissed in exchange for eight hours of volunteer work.
The judge urged the prosecutors to reduce the charges to infractions for the remaining defendants.
"I’ve never had so many jurors express concerns about why a prosecutor’s office would move forward and spend time and money on a case of this nature," Weber told U-T San Diego.
The city attorney’s office said if the defense proposes it, they would be willing to try the case without a jury on infractions rather than misdemeanors.
Proposition 8 was later ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. The decision is under appeal.