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United States v. Jackson

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division

December 19, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DARRIES LEON JACKSON, Defendant Year

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Clifton L. Corker, United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendant Darries Leon Jackson (“Jackson”), proceeding pro se, has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment with prejudice, claiming that African-Americans were systematically excluded from the Grand Jury selection process [Doc. 43]. This matter is before the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of the District Court. An evidentiary hearing was conducted on December 1, 2016.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 8, 2016, this Court granted in part Jackson's motion to produce juror information [Doc. 44] and his motion for “Freedom of Information Act” [Doc. 53]. The Court authorized the disclosure of the relevant statistical information for purposes of permitting Jackson to challenge the selection process [Doc. 78, pg. 2]. The Court denied his request for the names and dates of service and race of the grand jurors for the last 30 years because the Clerk's office does not maintain information dating back that long. However, the Court directed the Deputy Clerk, John Medearis, to file an affidavit detailing the grand jury and petit jury selection process and provide statistical information regarding the percentage of African-Americans in the general population for the Greeneville Division and the percentage of African-Americans in the Greeneville Master and Qualified Jury Wheel. Once the statistical information pertaining to the 2013 grand jury was disclosed, the Court found it necessary to conduct an evidentiary hearing to address the specifics of the grand jury and petit jury selection process and permit Jackson to introduce any additional evidence pertaining to his motion to dismiss.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         At the evidentiary hearing, the only witness to testify was Deputy Clerk John Medearis (“Medearis”). Jackson presented no evidence. Medearis testified that he is responsible for supervising the operations of the Clerk's Office including the filling of both the Master and Qualified Jury Wheels and the summonsing of persons from the Qualified Jury Wheel for potential jury service. This process is set forth in the Jury Selection Plan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee for the Random Selection of Grand and Petit Jurors Jury (the “Jury Plan”). Exhibit 5.

         Medearis explained the process used to summons qualified jurors. The Clerk's Office receives from the Tennessee Secretary of State voter registration lists for all the counties in the division. That list is provided to Blue Grass Mailing Data and Fulfillment Services (“Blue Grass”), a third-party independent contractor retained by the Clerk's office, to randomly populate the Master Jury Wheel. Blue Grass randomly draws names using an automated selection system from the voter registration lists so that the registered voters in each county will be represented proportionally in the Master Jury Wheel.[1] Blue Grass then provides those randomly selected names from each county to the Clerk's office in a format compatible with the Clerk's Jury Management System (“JMS”).[2] These names constitute the Master Jury Wheel and are loaded into JMS. The Clerk's Office then uses JMS to randomly select names to whom the Clerk will send juror questionnaires. See 28 U.S.C. § 1864. These questionnaires, prescribed by the Administrative Office, require potential jurors to answer certain questions that relate to their qualifications to serve as a juror and require each to identify, among other things, his/her race.[3]See 28 U.S.C § 1869(h).

         In this case, 1, 000 questionnaires were mailed out to prospective jurors randomly selected from the Master Jury Wheel, from which 695 were returned. The Clerk's Office entered the answers from each questionnaire manually into JMS.[4] The Clerk's Office then employed JMS to identify which of the 695 were qualified for jury duty based on their answers on the questionnaire. JMS determined that out of the 695 who completed the questionnaires, 541 met the Plan's qualifications. Race was not a factor used to determine ineligibility.[5] Those not disqualified made up the qualified jury wheel. From the qualified jury wheel, the Clerk, again using JMS, randomly selected the names to whom it mailed summonses for assignments to grand or petite jury panels. That was the process followed in this case.

         Medearis also testified to the racial composition of the Master and Qualified Jury Wheels going back to 2005. He testified that the Master and Qualified Jury Wheel were filled on three occasions: March 21, 2005, June 30, 2009, and August 26, 2013. In 2005, African-Americans constituted 2.2 percent of the general population for the division and 1.86 percent of the Qualified Jury Wheel. In 2009, African-Americans constituted 2.2 percent of the general population in this division, and 1.31 percent of the Qualified Jury Wheel. For 2013, African-Americans made up 2.3 of the general population in the division but composed only 0.74 percent of the Qualified Jury Wheel.[6]

         III. ANALYSIS

         Racial discrimination in the selection of grand jurors “strikes at the fundamental values of our judicial system and our society as a whole, ” and is “especially pernicious in the administration of justice.” Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 555-56 (1979). The courts have long “recognized that a criminal defendant's right to equal protection of the laws has been denied when he is indicted by a grand jury from which members of a racial group purposefully have been excluded.” Rose, 443 U.S. at 556. The Court considers Jackson's motion to challenge the grand jury selection process on both Fifth and Sixth Amendment grounds.

         A. Fifth Amendment

         A defendant can allege a Fifth Amendment equal protection violation based on a grand jury selection process one of three ways. The first is to show intentional discrimination. Jackson has not presented any evidence on that. The second focuses on whether African-Americans were substantially underrepresented over a significant time period and whether the selection process was “susceptible of abuse” or “not racially neutral.” Casteneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 494 (1977). The third focuses on underrepresentation for the particular grand jury which indicted the defendant and whether the selection process for that grand jury is open to discrimination. See Jefferson v. Morgan, 962 F.2d 1185 (6th Cir. 1992). The Court will analyze both the way the system of selection works to choose grand and petit jurors and the particular grand jury that indicted Jackson.

         i. The System of Selection/Castaneda Factor-Test

         Under the Fifth Amendment, in order to show that an equal protection violation has occurred in the context of grand jury selection, the defendant must show that the procedure employed resulted in substantial underrepresentation of his race or of the identifiable group to which he belongs. See United States v. Ovalle, 136 F.3d 1092, 1104 (6th Cir. 1998)(applying Castaneda's equal protection analysis to a defendant's claim under the Fifth Amendment); see also Castaneda, 430 U.S. at 494. To do this, the defendant must meet a three-part test. First, the defendant must “establish that the group is one that is a recognizable, distinct class, singled out for different treatment under the laws, as written or as applied.” Castaneda, 430 U.S. at 494, 97 S.Ct. 1272. Second, “the degree of underrepresentation must be proved, by comparing the proportion of the group in the total population to the proportion called to serve as grand jurors, over a significant period of time.” Id. Third, the defendant must establish that the selection procedure was susceptible to abuse or was not racially neutral, “support[ing] the presumption of discrimination raised by the statistical showing.” Id. Jackson claims that each of these factors has been met.

         a. Factor One - A recognizable, distinct class, singled out for different treatment.

         The Court agrees with Jackson that the first factor has been satisfied. It is undisputed that African-Americans are a “distinctive group” for the purpose of jury composition challenges. Peters v. Kiff, 407 U.S. 493, 503 (1972); Jefferson, 962 F.2d at 1189. The United States does not contest the point.

         b. Factor Two - Underrepresentation in this division over a significant period of time.

         The second factor focuses on whether African-Americans have been underrepresented in this division over a significant period of time. Underrepresentation is determined by comparing the proportion of African-Americans in the total population of this division to the proportion called to serve as grand jurors over a significant period of time. In Castaneda, the Supreme Court described this method of proof as a “rule of exclusion.” That is, “if a disparity is sufficiently large, then it is unlikely that it is due solely to chance or accident, and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, one must conclude that racial or other class-related factors entered into the selection process.” Id. at 494, n. 13.

         In this case, the following Table illustrates the proportions for comparison purposes:

Year

Total Qualified in Jury Pool Wheel

African- Americans in Qualified Jury Wheel (“QJW”)

Percentage of African-Americans in QJW

Percentage of African- Americans in population area

2005

429

8

1.86 %

2.2 %

2009

306

4

1.31 %

2.2 %

2013

541

4

.74 %

2.3 %

TOTAL

1, 276

16

1.25 %

2.3 %


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