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Court won't set new jury pick standard

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday unanimously refused to set a strict standard under which a defendant can claim minorities have been excluded from a jury.

The ruling came in the case of a black defendant convicted of second-degree murder by an all-white jury in Kent County, Mich., in 1993.

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At the time potential jurors were drawn from a jury-eligible population that consisted of 7.28 percent blacks; the pool from which his jury was drawn was 6 percent black.

The courts have said the Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a jury drawn from sources reflecting a cross section of the community. In the Michigan case, the defendant complained of the absence of women from the jury pool because of state rules that disproportionately accommodated women with sick children or other family obligations.

The defendant said blacks disproportionately were allowed to escape jury duty because of these rules, resulting in an all-white jury that didn't represent a fair cross-section of the community.

The Supreme Court reversed a federal appeals court ruling that threw out the defendant's conviction. The Supreme Court said it "has never 'clearly established' that jury-selection-process features of the kind on (the defendant's) list can give rise to a (Sixth Amendment) fair-cross-section claim."

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