Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, September 16, 2005

Jury Picking, Riverside style

It was not until the end of the second day of picking a jury in the Roger Sutton case that Commissioner Joan F. Burgess realized that they would run out of prospective jurors in the current pool. At the beginning of the first day of trial, there had been 47 filled seats in Dept. 6. On Thursday afternoon, at 4:30pm, only 12 jurors remained besides the 10 seated in the jury box, and both sides announced that there would be 15 for cause challenges. That, is in addition to the presumptory challenges which remain for both sets of attorneys to exercise which could whittle down the jury pool even further.

Before recessing for the weekend, Burgess finally relented, and decided that 15 more jurors will be sent up from the jury room. It will not be enough.

The vast majority of jurors removed, have been for cause. Anyone who had any contact with anyone who hired, fired, disciplined, promoted, demoted or censored employees was gone by the second day. Anyone who lived in Casa Blanca, anyone who had prior negative contacts with the RPD(which on a bad day can be half the jury pool, this time somewhat less) was also quickly gone. If you were White and thus allowed to be ignorant about race and racism, you stayed. If you were Black or Hispanic and thus not allowed to be ignorant about race, you were gone. And predicably if you were of color, it was the city's stable of attorneys that sent you packing.

The black female juror who said, "I am Black. I can not separate myself from it. I'm for my people", well she will have to endure the entire voir dire questioning process before she's officially removed for cause.

When it came to race, the city was awfully shy about discussing it in public. Instead, they asked Burgess if they could retreat to the confines of her office, and always she agreed. It is one thing to close off interviews with jurors about personal experiences in a semi-confidential environment. It is another to use the guise of confidentiality to hide behind when discussing race and racism in the city of Riverside. Race, after all, being the heart of what this trial is about.

At one instance, Eugene Ramirez, etal retreated into Burgess's chambers, along with Sutton, his attorneys, the court reporter and oddly enough, Lt. Bob Meier, the city's representative in this case. The only time he was invited to chambers was when the city's attorneys aired their views on race in this trial. Why was that?

If you read the witness list or heard it read in court by Burgess, you will notice Meier's name is on it. As it should be, because he was a principal player in this episode. However, not only will he not be testifying, but he has been designated the city's representative in this case. Why is it, that the police department would assign an officer to monitor the case including what goes on in the judge's chambers, who has a vested interest in that case?

Hopefully, Meier was not invited into chambers when a juror was inside talking to the parties of the case about any negative experiences with the RPD. Inappropriate, would not begin to describe that kind of interaction.

But it is typical of the city to make decisions like this one with Meier, just as it is typical of the city to ignore the problems of racism within its employment ranks.


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