Seeking New Trial, Officials Cite Race Of Jury

Cecil Angel, Detroit Free Press, March 22, 2007

Inkster city officials claim that an all-white federal jury should not have been allowed to decide a discrimination case against the predominantly black city and are asking for a new trial.

In a motion filed this month in U.S. District Court in Detroit, city officials said their constitutional right to be tried before a jury of their peers was violated. The jury did not reflect the racial makeup of the community, which is 75% to 80% black, the motion said.

On Feb. 14, the jury decided in favor of Inkster Police Lt. Thomas Diaz, who said he was passed over for police chief, deputy chief and commander in 2003-04 because city officials wanted a black candidate. Diaz, who is a white Hispanic, won a $253,997 verdict.

The city filed its motion March 12 for a new trial. It is unknown when action will be taken on the motion.

“It is remarkable that out of 23 members” of the jury panel, “there was not one individual who was clearly African American,” the motion said.

Federal juries for the Detroit court are chosen from Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, St. Clair, Sanilac, Monroe, Washtenaw and Jackson counties, a court employee said.

According to the motion, the jury pool contained possibly two people who were not white. One who appeared to be either Asian or of Arab descent was dropped via preemptory challenge from Diaz’s lawyer, the motion said.

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The city also requested that if the court does not grant a new trial, then a portion of the jury award, $68,490 for past economic damages and future economic damages, should be set aside for lack of proof.

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