Posted on July 5, 2024

Colorado Supreme Court, 5-2, Says No New Trial Following ‘Overt, In-Court Racism’

Michael Karlik, Colorado Politics, July 2, 2024

The Colorado Supreme Court concluded on Monday that a Black defendant did not deserve a new trial after one juror disclosed he moved to the overwhelmingly White jurisdiction because he “didn’t want diversity,” and the trial judge refused to dismiss him for bias.

By 5-2, the court believed Reginald Keith Clark had not shown the juror’s comments, ostensibly conveying prejudice against people of color, had harmed him. Even though the trial judge allowed the man — identified as Juror K — to remain, the defense later removed Juror K using one of its strikes and there were no further allegations Clark’s actual jury was biased against him.

“Ultimately, the only events the jurors witnessed were Juror K’s comments during (jury selection) and Juror K’s subsequent dismissal,” wrote Justice Monica M. Márquez in the July 1 opinion. “If there was any reasonable conclusion to draw about the permissibility of racial bias in the courtroom, it was that such expressions of bias result in dismissal, not that they are tolerated or welcomed.”

Justice William W. Hood III dissented, arguing the “overt, in-court racism” should have resulted in Juror K’s dismissal for cause. Writing for himself and Justice Richard L. Gabriel, Hood suggested the majority was “no doubt reluctantly” upholding Clark’s convictions. But he believed allowing a juror to make biased comments against the only Black person in the courtroom, and then keeping him in the jury pool, damaged the integrity of the justice system in immeasurable ways.


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 voir dire — the part of jury selection where attorneys ask questions of jurors — 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.

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,” he 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.”