Iowa court affirms process that may exclude Black jurors

Feb 3, 2022, 8:01 PM | Updated: Feb 4, 2022, 1:16 pm

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Black man’s argument that he was denied his right to an impartial jury because of a flawed process that excluded Black people and resulted in only white jurors.

It is the second time the state’s high court heard an appeal from Kenneth Lee Lilly, who was convicted for helping a relative rob a southeastern Iowa bank in 2016. Lilly alleged that his right to an impartial jury under the U.S. and Iowa constitutions was violated because neither his jury nor the group from which his jury was selected included any Black people.

Lilly, 57, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for robbery with a mandatory 17 1/2 years to be served before parole eligibility. He was accused of driving Lafayette A. Evans, a relative from Nashville, Tennessee, to a branch of the Fort Madison Bank on June 29, 2016. Evans fired several shots in the bank and at a police officer. He ran away with $224,000 in a backpack but was shot and killed by officers.

Lilly was tried in Lee County, where about 3% of the population of 33,000 is Black.

His attorney, Shellie Knipfer-Mcclellan, said Lilly was disappointed in the outcome.

“Nevertheless, our hope is that there will be continued work to improve the jury system to fulfill the constitutional guarantee of an impartial jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community,” she said.

David Walker, a retired Drake University Law professor who wrote a brief to the court for the NAACP supporting a new trial for Lilly, said his case and others in recent years have helped improve jury management practices in Iowa, but that work remains to ensure proper balance.

“The big picture and the long race is to work in all ways at all levels to secure jury pools and panels that represent a fair cross section of the community and are more likely to yield a jury drawn from a fair cross section,” he said. “A decision in an individual case doesn’t alter that.”

The attorney general’s office declined to comment about the ruling.

In the first appeal in 2019, the court returned Lilly’s case to the district court for a hearing on whether his rights were violated by the jury selection process. The judge rejected his claims and Lilly again appealed.

The court upheld the lower court’s decision that he failed to prove Black citizens are excluded from jury pools because they are underrepresented in the voter registration and driver’s license lists from which names are drawn in Iowa.

Lilly claimed that low-income people tend to register to vote and to acquire driver’s licenses and nonoperator identification cards at a lower rate than other members of the community. He also said Black citizens make up a higher percentage of low-income people in Lee County. And he inferred that Black people are underrepresented in the lists from which jury pools are sourced.

In hearing his case the first time, the court established that such jury pool challenges must identify a practice that led to the underrepresentation, and it cannot be “run-of-the-mill” jury management practices.

Many states use voter registration and driver’s license identification lists to construct a list from which to draw jury pools, Justice Matthew McDermott wrote for the court, which unanimously agreed. The lists are the only ones that Iowa law requires courts to use in drawing jury pools.

“Because he challenges a run-of-the-mill practice, and no other practices, Lilly cannot show a violation under the Sixth Amendment,” the court said. The court also concluded Lilly’s challenge under the Iowa Constitution fails because he offered no evidence to establish that low-income people register to vote or get driver’s licenses or nonoperator identification cards at lower rates.

While all seven justices agreed with the outcome, Justice Edward Mansfield, joined in his opinion by Justice Brent Appel, left the door open to such challenges, saying if it is found that “a practice that leads to systematic underrepresentation of a distinctive group in jury pools can be identified and corrected, there is no reason to shield that practice from scrutiny just because it is relatively commonplace.” He said Iowa lawyers are gathering data.

Justice Christopher McDonald, in a separate opinion joined by Chief Justice Susan Christensen and Thomas Waterman, was more willing to block such challenges, saying allowing such cases to continue to surface “is undermining the administration of justice, rendering it incredibly difficult simply to have a jury trial without months of discovery, expensive motion practice, expensive expert witness testimony, and days of hearings.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)...
Associated Press

Fish and Wildlife shoots wrong wolf, more attacks confirmed

Wolves from two packs in northeast Washington state have attacked more cattle
14 hours ago
Associated Press

US officials seek public comment on Pacific Northwest Trail

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. officials are taking a big step involving a 1,200-mile (1,900-kilometer) hiking trail stretching from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Forest Service is accepting comments through Oct. 30 on a comprehensive plan for the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, which starts in Glacier National Park in Montana, […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Mexican church pre-Hispanic paintings suggest negotiation

TEPOZTLAN, Mexico (AP) — Indigenous symbols found painted next to Roman Catholic motifs at a 1550s-era convent near Mexico City suggest Spanish priests negotiated with Indigenous leaders in the first years after the conquest, experts said Friday. The popular belief has long been that the Spanish simply imposed their religion and government system after the […]
14 hours ago
Joseph Morrison appears before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson on Wednesday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

FBI gives evidence to tie militia to Gov. Whitmer plotters

Prosecutors on Friday played secretly recorded audio from a 2020 meeting in the basement of a vacuum shop as they tried to show jurors how a paramilitary group was connected to a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It was contemptuous talk about police and politicians in the makeshift home of Adam Fox — […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge refuses to allow partial absentee addresses, for now

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Dane County judge refused Friday to issue a temporary order that would allow local election clerks to accept partial witness addresses on absentee ballots. A group called Rise Inc. filed a lawsuit in September seeking a judicial order requiring the Wisconsin Elections Commission to tell local clerks that they must […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge sets limits in lawsuit over 2020 mail slowdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has set limits on one of the U.S. Postal Service’s cost-cutting practices that contributed to a worrisome slowdown of mail deliveries ahead of the 2020 presidential election. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan concluded that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s actions delayed mail deliveries and that he acted without obtaining an […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Iowa court affirms process that may exclude Black jurors