By Dana Littlefield and Matthew T. Hall / U-T San Diego / May 1, 2012
SAN DIEGO — A judge ruled Tuesday that prosecutors in a case involving a group of same-sex marriage activists violated the defendants’ rights by dismissing potential jurors based on their sexual orientation. Superior Court Judge Joan Weber dismissed the entire jury panel, saying she found it “shocking” that the San Diego City Attorney’s Office would exclude two gay jurors during the selection process.
Prosecutors disagreed with the judge’s ruling. Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones said outside the courtroom Tuesday that the case is not about “anybody’s rights” but instead focuses on whether the six defendants who remain charged in the case unlawfully blocked the operation of the county clerk’s office during a protest in August 2010. “That’s all that this is about,” Jones said. “It has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.”
Attorneys for the accused activists noted that the judge agreed with their contention that prosecutors systematically excluded gay people from the jury pool. “There has been a fundamental violation of a constitutional right to a jury trial by my client’s peers,” said Todd Moore, who represents one of the defendants.
Attorney Dan Greene, who represents one of the activists, said that while it’s common for defense lawyers to file this type of motion when they believe such a violation has occurred it is highly unusual for judges to grant them. “This was something that had to be done,” Greene said.
Weber’s ruling means the lawyers will have to pick a new panel if the case goes to trial. She ordered them back to court Wednesday morning to discuss how the case should proceed.
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