A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that two men convicted of carjacking will get new trials after a juror with racial bias was allowed to remain on the case.
According to NJ.com, both Rashon Brown and Malik Smith are serving prison terms of more than 20 years following their 2012 carjacking convictions.
One juror, identified only as juror number 4, became afraid on the second day of deliberations after spotting two African-American men in the neighborhood.
“They certainly don’t live around there, and they don’t hang around there,” said the juror, who “feared the presence of two African-American men in her neighborhood may have had some kind of sinister connection to the trial.”
Both jurors 5 and 12 agreed with the woman’s suspicions and advised her to tell a deputy. The jurors were all interviewed by the trial judge but allowed to remain on the case, Courthouse News reports.
The judge said in open court that he “didn’t think that that’s even an expression of racism.”
However, Appellate Court Judges Jose Fuentes, Victor Ashrafi and Amy O’Connor found that juror number 4 should’ve been removed.
“When juror 4 inferred a sinister conspiratorial purpose from a facially innocuous event, based only on the race of the participants, she revealed a deeply rooted, latent racial bias that required her removal from the jury,” the appeals court ruling states. “The trial judge erred in permitting her to remain on the jury and continue deliberating merely based on the juror’s self-serving denial of racial bias.”