Jeff Coen, Chicago Tribune, July 25
A judge’s comments in recent months that she would refuse to seat an all-white jury have raised eyebrows at Cook County Criminal Court and questions about whether the judge acted inappropriately.
“Folks, you all know I have a rule; I don’t seat all white jurors,” Circuit Judge Evelyn Clay said as a jury was being picked to hear a murder trial last month, according to court transcripts.
Clay, who is African-American, made the remarks in chambers before three separate trials, according to transcripts reviewed by the Tribune.
The first time was the April 20 trial of a man for unlawful use of a weapon. After eight jurors were picked, Clay indicated she was not satisfied with the makeup of the panel.
“I’m telling you folks, I don’t know what you all intend to do, but I have no intention of seating an all-white jury,” Clay said, according to transcripts.
Ronald Allen, a law professor at Northwestern University, called the judge’s comments extraordinary.
“I’ve never heard of a judge making such a statement, and I think it was ill-advised to do so publicly,” he said. “It injects an unfortunate racial element into the matter, and quite frankly it raises very serious questions about whether [the judge] is discriminating against whites.”