A San Diego judge, dismissing an entire jury panel on Tuesday, has condemned city prosecutors for excluding a gay juror in a case related to a Proposition 8 protest.
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.
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.
The case relates to an August 19, 2010, Proposition 8 protest where nine people were arrested for, among other charges, disrupting business at the county clerk’s office. This is a charge the defense denies.
City prosecutors said that the potential juror in question had himself indicated he’d protested in support of gay rights issues and, for this and other answers he gave, he was deemed unsuitable for the case.
Judge Weber said that this was entirely unacceptable because the juror’s prior gay rights advocacy did not indicate that he would be biased on the entirely separate question of whether protesters were in violation of the law or not.
Weber is quoted as saying that she has “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.”
City prosecutors have indicated that, following the judge’s recommendations, they are willing to dispense with the jury and settle for pursuing lesser charges against the protesters.