A look at jury selection process for Andrew Blomberg's trial

May 18, 2012 5:46:18 PM PDT
On Wednesday, Andrew Blomberg was acquitted of official oppression in the beating of teen burglary suspect Chad Holley. Much of the outcry over that verdict is directly related to the all-white, six-person jury, which acquitted the former HPD police officer. So we're taking a closer look at the jury pool, and the selection process.

From a tactical standpoint, the state had an uphill battle. The DA wanted all four ex-officers to be tried together, but their defense attorneys had their cases separated and the toughest one to prosecute was up first -- that of Blomberg -- and then the questions about the jury.

The jurors named have been sealed by the court at their request. What we do know is that it was an all-white jury.

Jury selection in Blomberg's trial took a week. Potential jurors were questioned individually and a pool of more than 60 emerged. That was whittled down to 19 people, from whom defense and prosecution could choose.

Each side was allowed to strike five jurors, which left a total of 10 -- six plus an alternate emerged. All of them were white; the defense struck two potential black jurors for cause.

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos on Thursday said there was nothing the state could have done to change that.

"Absolutely not, the black prospective jurors were struck by the defense, so there's nothing we could have done to prevent what actually occurred with respect to jury selection," Lykos said.

The prosecution didn't object to the strikes. In jury selection, juror background information is given to both sides, the black jury candidates were dismissed and Blomberg's attorney says it wasn't because of race. One worked for the DA's office and the other...

"One of 'em said that he'd been arrested without justification by the Houston Police Department over 30 times. He said that wouldn't make any difference, but frankly, I thought it would," Blomberg's attorney, Dick Deguerin, said.

That would mean they were struck for cause.

Adam Gershowitz is a professor of criminal law at the University of Houston and says while it may not appear fair...

"But there's nothing illegal, nothing impermissible, about having an all-white jury in this type of case. We can't mandate. The law doesn't allow a mandate that a certain number of members of individual groups be on a particular jury, they just can't do that," Gershowitz said.

As far as that jury is concerned, Deguerin says that initially the panel was split, with two for acquittal, two for conviction and the last two were undecided. However, they eventually came to a unanimous decision because they felt the state could not prove that Blomberg knew what he was doing was unreasonable.


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