Jews systematically excluded from death row juries?

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

The NY Times is reporting that a controversy is brewing in Alameda County, California, over the accusation that Jews had been excluded from participating in juries in capital murder cases where the death penalty was a possible outcome.

A former Alameda prosecutor, John R. Quatman, made the contentions in a sworn declaration in the habeas corpus case of Fred H. Freeman. Mr. Freeman is a condemned inmate who is seeking to overturn his conviction in 1987 in a killing and robbery at a bar in Berkeley.

Mr. Quatman, who worked for 26 years as a deputy district attorney and prosecuted the case, said the trial judge, Stanley Golde, advised him during jury selection that “no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber.”

“Judge Golde was only telling me what I already should have known to do,” Mr. Quatman’s statement said. “It was standard practice to exclude Jewish jurors in death cases.”

Mr. Quatman said the practice extended to African-American women, who have also been widely considered sympathetic to defendants, though in Mr. Freeman’s case that has not been an issue.

This practice is illegal, because prohibitions of jury exclusions on the basis of race were extended by the U.S. Supreme Court to include discrimination on the basis of religion.

Judge Golde was Jewish and apparently did not support the death penalty. However, his sons believe that he upheld it as a right of the state because as a judge he believed upholding the law was more important. Quatman, who is making the accusations, claims,

He said I could not have a Jew on the jury and asked me if I was aware that when Adolf Eichmann was apprehended after World War II there was a major controversy in Israel over whether he should be executed.” “Judge Golde said no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber. I thanked Judge Golde for his advice and thereafter excused any prospective juror who was Jewish.”

People who were around at the time are pooh-pooing Quatman’s claims, although one of the people quioted in the article simply says that it wasn’t exclusion on the basis of race or religion, but rather “common sense” not to have people with the wrong political leanings on the jury.

This is having wide repercussions because if the allegations are true, all of the death row cases in Alameda County will have to be reconsidered since the murderers would then be deemed not to have enjoyed the benefit of a fair trial.

At least in this article, there appears to be substance to the allegations:

At Mr. Schmeck’s trial in 1989, prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove the two prospective Jewish jurors, court papers show. His lawyers protested, but the judge, who was not Mr. Golde, sided with the prosecution, which said there were reasons other than religion for excluding the two.

As part of the appeal, Mr. Schmeck’s lawyers and the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, a group that represents Mr. Freeman, reviewed jury selection in 25 capital trials in Alameda from 1984 to 1994. The review found that 12 people who identified themselves as Jews were called to the jury box and that the prosecution rejected all 12.

The review found, 17 people who had surnames perceived as Jewish were called, with the prosecution excluding 15 . Over all, the review found non-Jews excluded at a rate of 49.97 percent, and Jews and people with Jewish surnames were excluded at a rate of 93.10 percent.

In papers in Mr. Schmeck’s case, his lawyers state that another ex-Alameda prosecutor, Alex Selvin, confirmed that “it was the standard practice for attorneys on the capital team to exclude Jews from capital juries.” Mr. Selvin did not make a sworn declaration.

12 Comments

  1. Adam Hyman

    3/16/2005 at 3:03 pm

    I don’t blame them.

    Jews in America are more liberal than anything else. I mean that liberalism is what their primary ideology is…. rather than Torah… or anything else.

    Even after Kerry wanted to appoint Jimmy Carter as the US Ambassador to the Middle East…. 75% of Jews voted for him!!

    Homosexuals were more likely to vote for Bush, than were Jews.

    If I was a prosecuting attorney, I would exclude Jewish jurors as well! I’m not just just talking about secular Jews….

    Because of religious Jews extremely high reguard for human life, I they are much less likely to give someone the death penalty….

    Since becoming religious…. I would also have GIGANTIC reservations….

    Mr. Quatman’s statement makes perfect sense to me!

  2. Dina

    3/16/2005 at 5:13 pm

    I don’t think it does. I think it’s a little obnoxious. It’s that “let’s hold all Jews accountable for the same decision because they’re all Jews” theory.

  3. Boo

    3/17/2005 at 7:53 am

    Please, jurists, correct me if I am wrong but… Isn’t the idea behind a jury that you are judged by your peers. Seems to me like this could be a good strategy for Jewish defendants: request “peers”… and walk.

  4. Zevi

    3/17/2005 at 11:37 am

    Hey any time you want to kick my ass of a jury cuz i am jewish please do so!!!!

  5. anonymous

    3/17/2005 at 2:40 pm

    the forward had this story a while ago — a month or more. wonder why it took the times so long to pick up on it.

  6. Anne

    3/17/2005 at 8:18 pm

    As Dave Barry famously put it:

    “Only in America do you have the right to a trial by jury of people too stupid to get off of jury duty.”

    Maybe it says something good about us that we aren’t “chosen” for this particular task.

  7. Ray

    3/18/2005 at 3:14 am

    I think that we are all missing the point here. Singling out Jews as a group for special treatment, that doesn’t involve the serving of Manischwitz wine is never a good thing. Now the Jewish judge urges the prosecution to excuse the Jewish juror in order to get a “fair” trial culminating in a trip to the gas chamber. Later they can still blame the Jews. Sorry for the doom and gloom…

  8. Steve

    3/18/2005 at 7:49 am

    T_M’s back, back,back. Back again.

    T_M’ back. T_M’s back. T_M’s back.

    (With apologies to Eminem)

    Would work much better if T_M’s name consisted of 2 syllables.

  9. Charles Lester

    3/19/2005 at 6:39 pm

    What Quatman does is fairly common across the US. See Dale S. Recinella. The Biblical Truth About America’s Death Penalty (2004), for a recent exposition about how the death penalty is used and administered today in the U.S.

  10. T_M

    3/19/2005 at 11:11 pm


    About the Author
    DALE S. RECINELLA is an attorney who serves as a state-certified spiritual counselor and Catholic lay chaplain for Florida’s prison system, ministering to death row inmates and prisoners in long-term solitary confinement. He is also a columnist, public speaker, and frequent panelist on worldwide Vatican Radio. He lives in Macclenny, Florida.

    Product Description:
    While secular support for capital punishment in America seems to be waning, religious conservatives, particularly in the “Bible belt,” remain staunch advocates of the death penalty, citing biblical law and practice to defend government-sanctioned killing. In this close reading of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, Dale S. Recinella compares biblical teaching about the death penalty, including such passages as “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life,” with the nation’s current system of capital punishment, and offers persuasive arguments for a faith-based moratorium—and eventual abolition—of executions.
    Framing his careful and incisive analysis as a legal brief to those who believe the Bible mandates the ultimate punishment, the author addresses two critical areas of inquiry: what do the scriptures tell us about who is deserving of death and who has the authority to kill, and what do they tell us about the required standards for execution and the plight of victims’ families. Recinella’s examination of the Hebrew Torah, or Christian Pentateuch, and the Talmud reveals that the biblical death penalty was not a simple system of swift retribution, but a complex and practical set of laws that guided capital courts established under the Sanhedrin. His scrutiny of these texts, the Christian doctrine of atonement, and Romans 13 in the Pauline Epistles, draws parallels between the traditional biblical arguments used in favor of capital punishment and those used as the basis for pro-slavery positions in the nineteenth century. Demonstrating that both approaches are unsubstantiated in biblical terms, Recinella debunks the accepted religious reasoning for support of the death penalty and shows instead that the Bible’s strict conditions for sanctioning execution are at odds with the arbitrary ways in which capital punishment is administered in the United States. He provides convincing evidence that a sentence of death in today’s criminal justice system in fact fails to meet both the Bible’s exacting procedural requirements and its strict limitations on judicial authority.

    By providing actual scriptural language and foundation to counter the position that biblical truth justifies a pro-death penalty stance, this thoughtful, solidly researched, and well-reasoned work will give pause to religious fundamentalists and challenge them to rethink their strongly held views on capital punishment.

    product description from Amazon.

  11. William Ashley

    4/3/2005 at 2:26 am

    A few comments:
    1.) Things done are in the past, if you know he did it and you find it so dispicable that he should die, why didn’t you kill him then? Attempting to salvage justice by a notion of revenge or removing people is inane. I can understand attempting to resolve the situation but modern justice is nothing more then putting off repairing the world, it is just a way of removing determent from a perpetual system.
    2.) An eye for an eye, and at the same time thou shalt not murder. But you must remember the judge is basically claiming to be g-d. I can understand how with WWII holocost how this could be seen as issued, but in reality if you see what israeli jews did to the palastinians you gotta ask yourself, is it that they despise or they adopted nazi beleifs.
    3.) Why not just answer every question that is asked of the defendant with the saying shalom! .. that might get sympathy. Of but this is about excluding jews… it must be a one way ticket off jury duty if you are a black female jew negrew? no hmm almost wit.

    What does it matter the person is being screwed over regardless, death is a one way ticket out of this hell.. but really this seems nothing more then a twist on THE GAS CHAMBER REMINDER CARD. this world is so -ed up.

  12. William Ashley

    4/3/2005 at 2:31 am

    60 years… are people in jerico still pissed at property damage?

    I know .. it is real and important.

    Yes I am insensitive, it all the torture.

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