Decision: Judge’s comments on religion and race were inappropriate | New


GUILFORD COUNTY – A man convicted of traffic violations and found to be a habitual criminal almost two years ago deserves a new trial because the Guilford County judge overseeing the case suggested that a potential black juror made up a religious excuse for not serving and said “most African Americans don’t want to sit on a jury,” a North Carolina Court of Appeals panel ruled.

Allen Anthony Campbell was convicted in December 2019 by Guilford County Superior Court of driving with revocation of license, disobeying light or siren, speeding, reckless driving to endanger, flight to escape arrest and ordinary criminal status, but his appeal argued that the judge’s comments during jury selection denied him the chance to have a fair trial.

During jury selection, a man said his Baptist religious beliefs would make him uncomfortable deciding on another person’s guilt or innocence.

Judge Lora Christine Cubbage, who is also black, has long expressed her frustration with this argument.

“Let me just say this, and especially to African Americans: Every day we are in the papers saying that we are not getting fairness in the justice system. Each day. But … most African Americans don’t want to be on a jury. And 90% of the time, he’s an African-American accused. So we leave those juries and we leave open the possibility – for juries to exist without any African Americans sitting on them, to give an African American accused a fair trial. So we can’t keep complaining if we’re going to be part of the problem, ”she said. “Now I grew up a Baptist too. And there’s nothing about a Baptist background that says we can’t listen to the evidence and decide if this gentleman setting at this table was treated the way he was supposed to be treated and received. – was charged the way he was supposed to be charged. “

Cubbage fired the man from the jury roll, but Campbell’s attorney argued in the appeal that her comments on religion “had intimidated jurors into exercising their own beliefs” and that she also “had” injected free of charge the race into the trial “.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal ruled that while Cubbage may have been motivated by a desire to see Campbell, who is black, to have an ethnically diverse jury, his comments were inappropriate.

“Courts have warned that irrelevant references to religion, race and other unchanging characteristics can impede an accused’s right to equal protection and due process,” the ruling said. “After watching the trial court reprimand (the) potential juror … other potential jurors – especially African-American jurors – would likely be reluctant to openly and frankly answer questions during jury selection regarding their ability to be fair and neutral, especially if their concerns arise. of their religious beliefs.

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