Posted on December 19, 2023

Colorado Justices Struggle With Juror in Black Defendant’s Trial Who ‘Didn’t Want Diversity’

Michael Karlik, Colorado Politics, December 15, 2023

Members of the Colorado Supreme Court this week struggled with the fate of a Black defendant’s convictions in an overwhelmingly White jurisdiction, after a trial judge refused to dismiss a juror who admitted he “didn’t want diversity.”

Although the justices have previously addressed cases involving people of color who were removed from juries because of their race — which amounts to a constitutional violation — the appeal of Reginald Keith Clark involved the opposite scenario: A person allowed to remain in the jury pool despite making arguably racist statements.

“If you’re Mr. Clark,” said Justice Richard L. Gabriel during oral arguments on Tuesday, “I can conceive of just sitting here saying, ‘I’m not going to get a fair shake. I’m the only Black person in this room. I’ve got a juror who’s already expressed racist comments. The judge said this is OK.’

“Don’t we as a society care that that person should not be in this courtroom, in this jury?” he added.


A Gilpin County jury convicted Clark of kidnapping a woman from Denver, driving her to the mountains near Black Hawk and sexually assaulting her. During jury selection, Clark’s attorney raised the fact that Clark was the only Black person in the room. Some jurors acknowledged that from Clark’s perspective, he “might have some reservations” about whether he would receive a fair trial in Gilpin County, which is 92% White.

One member of the jury pool, Juror K, then volunteered his thoughts about the issue of diversity.

“Yes, it’s obvious there’s a Black gentleman over there. This is Gilpin County. I moved to Gilpin County. I didn’t want diversity,” Juror K said. “I hear the things, that diversity makes us stronger and things like that. I don’t quite believe it in life from what my personal experiences are. And I can’t change that.”

After the parties spoke with then-District Court Judge Dennis J. Hall, the judge asked Juror K if he could perform his duties based on the evidence. Yes, Juror K responded. Although the defense moved to dismiss Juror K for cause, Hall denied the request.

Juror K expressed “a political view, I think,” Hall elaborated. “That doesn’t really answer the question of whether he can be a fair juror. And a person can certainly have offensive views and still apply the law. Those two things are really separate in my mind.”

The defense later removed Juror K using one of its allotted strikes, and he did not serve on the jury.

On appeal, the question was whether Hall improperly handled the challenge to Juror K and, if so, whether Clark deserved a new trial. In an unusual decision, the Court of Appeals panel issued three separate opinions, one for each judge.

Judges Terry Fox and Timothy J. Schutz believed Hall should have dismissed Juror K for cause because of his admitted racial bias. Judge John Daniel Dailey believed Hall did not make a mistake and that nothing warranted a reversal of Clark’s convictions. On the latter point, Fox agreed, forming a 2-1 majority to uphold Clark’s convictions.