Opening a racial Pandora's Box in California

Thomas Lifson
Yesterday, America moved one baby step closer to apartheid, a society in which racial groups are officially considered unequal and consigned to their own separate spheres under the law. California's supreme court granted a temporary stay in a murder trial about to begin, on the unprecedented ground that the county where the crime took place and the trial was to be held does not have enough residents of the same color as the defendant, who is black. In other words, the underlying theory is that a defendant may be entitled to a jury of his or her own race, at least in some as yet undetermined minimal percentage. No showing is exclusion of jurors on the ground of race need be shown if a change of venue is granted. Mere demography could become a criterion in presumed prejudice.

Since we are guaranteed a jury of our peers, if the stay is upheld and a change of venue required by the California supremes, the justices would in effect be ruling that being of a different race can make one not a peer and unable to judge fairly in the eyes of the law. From this sort of ruling one can logically derive many corollaries establishing in law the principle that we are not in fact all equal irrespective of race. This case looks like a genuine Pandora's Box.

The details are complicated: the man on trial, Renato Hughes of San Francisco, did not kill anyone. He was one of three persons who allegedly robbed a pot dealer in rural Lake County and severely beat a child living in the alleged dealer's home, inflicting permanent brain damage. One of the victims then shot and killed two alleged accomplices. Under California's provocative act" murder doctrine, which holds accomplices responsible if their partners are killed while committing a crime, Hanlon faces murder charges. But these legal complexities are not the basis of the temporary stay.

Hughes' attorney, San Francisco lawyer Stuart Hanlon, requested a change of venue purely on the basis of the what the San Francisco Chronicle describes as  the
"racial imbalance" of overwhelmingly white Lake County -- a land where dirt roads and double-wides coexist with wine country aspirations.
While the snide double-wide verbiage, redolent of  scorn for less affluent Caucasians as rednecks, is employed by Chron writer Patricia Yollin, I find the statements of Hanlon troubling for signs of the same bigoted invidious stereotypes based purely on race.
"There are few black people in Lake County, so people rely on stereotypes," said defense attorney Stuart Hanlon of San Francisco. [....]

In an emergency request filed May 4 with the state Supreme Court, Hanlon wrote, "Lake County, a primarily Caucasian community in a rural setting, is presented with its greatest fear: a young, black male from a big city, coming to their town and invading one of their residents in the middle of the night, attacking his family, his girlfriend, 11-year-old daughter and two sons."
Hanlon even attributed the recent influx of city people to Lake County (where real estate prices are comparatively low, but which is reasonably close to the Bay Area and scenic to boot) to "white flight." Given the realtively small percentage of blacks in the Bay Area's population, and the obvious economic and lifestyle appeal of Lake County, this is ludicrous and evidence of racial prejudice on Hanlon's part.

I hope that Supreme Court speedily vacates this stay and allows Hughes to be judged by a jury of his peers in the location  where the crime occurred. To do otherwise takes us down the path where only blacks can judge blacks and whites can judge whites. And if one happens to be Tiger Woods, one cannot be tried by any jury, unless 12 Cablanasians can somehow be rounded up.

Hat tip: Diana Blackwell

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of American Thinker.
Yesterday, America moved one baby step closer to apartheid, a society in which racial groups are officially considered unequal and consigned to their own separate spheres under the law. California's supreme court granted a temporary stay in a murder trial about to begin, on the unprecedented ground that the county where the crime took place and the trial was to be held does not have enough residents of the same color as the defendant, who is black. In other words, the underlying theory is that a defendant may be entitled to a jury of his or her own race, at least in some as yet undetermined minimal percentage. No showing is exclusion of jurors on the ground of race need be shown if a change of venue is granted. Mere demography could become a criterion in presumed prejudice.

Since we are guaranteed a jury of our peers, if the stay is upheld and a change of venue required by the California supremes, the justices would in effect be ruling that being of a different race can make one not a peer and unable to judge fairly in the eyes of the law. From this sort of ruling one can logically derive many corollaries establishing in law the principle that we are not in fact all equal irrespective of race. This case looks like a genuine Pandora's Box.

The details are complicated: the man on trial, Renato Hughes of San Francisco, did not kill anyone. He was one of three persons who allegedly robbed a pot dealer in rural Lake County and severely beat a child living in the alleged dealer's home, inflicting permanent brain damage. One of the victims then shot and killed two alleged accomplices. Under California's provocative act" murder doctrine, which holds accomplices responsible if their partners are killed while committing a crime, Hanlon faces murder charges. But these legal complexities are not the basis of the temporary stay.

Hughes' attorney, San Francisco lawyer Stuart Hanlon, requested a change of venue purely on the basis of the what the San Francisco Chronicle describes as  the
"racial imbalance" of overwhelmingly white Lake County -- a land where dirt roads and double-wides coexist with wine country aspirations.
While the snide double-wide verbiage, redolent of  scorn for less affluent Caucasians as rednecks, is employed by Chron writer Patricia Yollin, I find the statements of Hanlon troubling for signs of the same bigoted invidious stereotypes based purely on race.
"There are few black people in Lake County, so people rely on stereotypes," said defense attorney Stuart Hanlon of San Francisco. [....]

In an emergency request filed May 4 with the state Supreme Court, Hanlon wrote, "Lake County, a primarily Caucasian community in a rural setting, is presented with its greatest fear: a young, black male from a big city, coming to their town and invading one of their residents in the middle of the night, attacking his family, his girlfriend, 11-year-old daughter and two sons."
Hanlon even attributed the recent influx of city people to Lake County (where real estate prices are comparatively low, but which is reasonably close to the Bay Area and scenic to boot) to "white flight." Given the realtively small percentage of blacks in the Bay Area's population, and the obvious economic and lifestyle appeal of Lake County, this is ludicrous and evidence of racial prejudice on Hanlon's part.

I hope that Supreme Court speedily vacates this stay and allows Hughes to be judged by a jury of his peers in the location  where the crime occurred. To do otherwise takes us down the path where only blacks can judge blacks and whites can judge whites. And if one happens to be Tiger Woods, one cannot be tried by any jury, unless 12 Cablanasians can somehow be rounded up.

Hat tip: Diana Blackwell

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of American Thinker.