The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed a murder conviction of a Portland man after finding out the prosecutors dismissed two Black jurors from the jury pool because of their race, according to OregonLive. The district attorney’s decision to strike both jurors was for “race-neutral” reasons.
Darian L. McWoods, 29, was found guilty in 2018 of the murder of his 15-month-old daughter. The jury that found him guilty had no Black members. Per OregonLive’s report, McWoods’ defense attorney, Josephine Townsend, fought against the dismissal of two of the Black jurors by citing the 1986 US Supreme Court decision prohibiting the exclusion of prospective jurors by race.
Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell didn’t use for-cause challenges to justify removing the two Black jurors but instead peremptory challenges. Translation: she didn’t have to offer an explanation. Judge Christopher Marshall accepted the dismissals as they were.
More from OregonLive:
In the ruling released Wednesday, Presiding Judge Josephine Mooney found that while Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell offered race-neutral reasons to strike both prospective jurors, those arguments were only a “pretext.”
“Racial discrimination in the selection of jurors is harmful,” Mooney wrote. “The state did not seek to strike similarly situated jurors who were not Black.”
In a statement, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Elisabeth Shepard said the Court of Appeals opinion would be used “to further educate and inform our role in the administration of justice.”
“The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is a learning organization that strives to carry out our responsibilities with integrity and humility,” she said. “We are committed to the ongoing pursuit of a safer, more equitable system.”
The report says the Oregon Department of Justice may appeal the overturned conviction to the state Supreme Court or back to the Multnomah County Circuit Court. McWoods is now looking at a retrial or dismissal of charges. Currently, he’s in custody at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute.
Reports say McWoods’ daughter Kamaya Flores died of methadone poisoning. Prosecutors say he gave her the substance intentionally or she took it by accident because McWoods often mixed drugs with Capri Suns.
Deputy public defender Marc. D. Brown said the conversation about removing peremptory strikes from the jury process has been going on for years now.
“Everyone hates them or loves them, depending on which side you’re on and what you’re doing. They do have this underlying potential for racial and gender bias,” said Brown via OregonLive.
Given the Supreme Court’s latest decisions on Miranda rights and appeals based on inadequate counsel, the right to an impartial jury is the last thing a Black man needs to lose.