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Nearly all-White jury pool not a violation of rights, Iowa Supreme Court rules

The Iowa Supreme Court (file photo).
The Iowa Supreme Court (file photo).(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall (custom credit) | AP)
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 1:32 PM CST
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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - A nearly all-White jury pool is not a violation of a fair trial under the U.S. Constitution, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in a case out of Black Hawk County.

Kevin Plain, Sr. appealed his conviction for harassment in the first degree based on the fact only 1 of 49 of his potential jurors was Black. Plain is also Black and argued that violated his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial since the jury did not reflect the community. The most recent census found roughly 10% of Black Hawk County residents are Black.

However, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against Plain, saying simply having a lack of jurors of one race is not proof of systemic discrimination. The Court said the basis to choose the jury pool followed standard, run-of-the-mill practices for gathering a jury pool. That included sending out mailers for jury summons, following-up with summons that are returned for a wrong address and also enforcing contempt of court charges against those who ignored or skipped the jury summons.

In the case of Plain, Black Hawk County sent out 100 summons and expected 87 people to show up for jury duty. However, only 49 jurors actually showed up with just one of them Black.

Court experts noted that, in Black Hawk County, Black residents were less likely than White residents to respond to a jury summons or show up for jury duty. Black residents also had higher rates of summons returned for a wrong address.

The Court, however, ruled that was not sufficient to prove the process created an unfair trial for Plain and upheld his conviction.

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