The Michigan Supreme Court will hear a case tomorrow where an African-American man claims he was denied a fair trial because of a computer error. The error caused fewer jury notices to go to households in African-American neighborhoods.
Ramon Bryant is challenging his convictions on charges of criminal sexual conduct, stealing $90, and possession of marijuana. Bryant says he was denied a trial before a jury of his peers that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
The question is whether the unintentional exclusion of African-Americans from the jury pool entitles Bryant to a new trial with a new jury. A computer error caused fewer jury notices to be sent to ZIP codes in Kent County with higher minority populations.
Bradley Hall is with the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan. He says the law requires juries be a “fair cross-section” of the community.
"Excluding of a minority population from jury service does not create a fair and reasonable representation of the community," said Hall. “"So it sort of happened by happenstance but there's no question it's systematic."
The prosecutor argues the mistake was accidental, and that there are other explanations as to why so few African Americans reported for jury duty.
Michigan's Attorney General says Bryant's conviction should stand. The AG's office contends the jury chosen made its decision based on the evidence.