Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
A Memphis man will get a new trial after a federal appeals court ruled this week that the jury selection for his trial was racially biased.
Geremy Atkins was convicted in April and given 37 months in prison for possessing a firearm, though he was a felon. In 2014. Atkins was arrested after he pointed an assault rifle at Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers who had knocked on his door and identified themselves during an investigation into drug sales.
Atkins appealed the decision because the court seated all white jury members, while striking five prospective black jurors from the hearing. For this, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday to vacate Atkins’ conviction and sentence, and to give him a new trial.
The ruling looked specifically at the instance of one juror who was struck. Antonio Dandridge, a black man, told the court during the jury selection process that he was married, had eight children, and that he had been working as a custodian for ServiceMaster for four months prior to the jury selection process.
However, Doug Carriker, working at the time as a Special Assistant United States Attorney, decided to strike Dandridge from the jury, saying he was “just one of those people that I didn’t get a good feeling about.”
“He didn’t have a very long employment history, which I don’t usually like,” Carriker said, according to circuit court documents. “I prefer people that have a stable background. He has eight children which kind of also bugged me a little bit. I’m afraid he might have problems with thinking about his child care or children while he was [in court].”
However, Carriker did not block “white jurors Jimmy Stewart, who had six children, Sarah Williams, who had four children, and Jennifer Absher, who had been laid off form her job approximately one month before [jury selection] began,” according to the ruling.
“…the government did not express concerns about the ability of similarly-situated white jurors to focus throughout the trial despite their large number of children and inconsistent work history,” reads the ruling.
Further, the ruling says Carriker did not further probe Dandridge’s ability to focus during the trial, showing that hthe prosecutor was not actually concerned with the man’s ability to focus at trial.