Posted on May 25, 2011

Was Kent County Man’s 2002 Rape Conviction Tainted by Jury Pool With Too Few Blacks? State High Court to Decide

Barton Deiters, Grand Rapids Press, May 19, 2011

The Michigan Supreme Court will consider whether a man convicted of raping a woman at gun-point received a fair trial in 2002–a time when many minorities were being excluded from jury pools in Kent County.

Ramon Bryant, 26, has been in prison for nine years after he was sentenced to 12 to 35 years for the rape and armed robbery he was convicted of committing at the age of 16.

At trial, Bryant’s attorney argued that only one of 45 prospective jurors was black, too few for adequate representation.

Bryant’s trial came during a period when a computer programming glitch, identified in subsequent years, caused problems in the jury-pool selection process.

For 16 months between 2001 and 2002, the program selected a disproportionately small number of jurors with lower ZIP codes, which tend to have high minority populations.

Last year, the state appeals court ordered a new trial for Bryant, saying it was “irrelevant that the problem with the computer program failing to select jurors across all ZIP codes does not appear to be intentional.”

The appeals court panel ruled that what matters is the effect upon the prosecution of Bryant and he is entitled to a new trial.


Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Timothy McMorrow {snip} said that the over all jury pool makeup was supposed to include a minority portion of about 8.6 percent, but because of the alleged computer glitch, minorities were reduced to around 4.3 percent.

In the case of Bryant, where police said the teen held a gun to a woman’s head and raped her after she went with him to buy crack cocaine, there was only one African-American juror out of a pool of 45 potential jurors.


{snip} There are cases making their way through the federal court system and it is possible a case will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.


“Nobody has the right to have a jury made up of a particular group,” said McMorrow.

“Are we going to say that African-American jurors are more likely to find a defendant not guilty?”