Dropping his First Amendment defense to charges brought by the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission, a judge agreed to a 90-day suspension without pay for, in addition to other misconduct, publishing comments on Facebook that accused the county commonwealth’s attorney of advocating for all-white jury panels, that criticized the public defender and criminal defense attorneys for not publicly supporting him in his dispute with the commonwealth’s attorney, and that discussed the motion to certify the law filed on behalf of the commonwealth’s attorney while the case was pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court. In re Stevens, Agreed order of suspension (Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission August 8, 2016). The judge made similar comments during a presentation to the Louisville Bar Association.
On November 18, 2014, the judge dismissed a jury panel in a criminal case, claiming the panel did not represent a fair cross-section of the community. The Kentucky Attorney General, on behalf of Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Thomas Wine, filed a motion for certification of law with the Kentucky Supreme Court to determine, among other issues, whether a judge has the authority to dismiss a jury panel without providing evidence of a systemic exclusion of a class of persons. A TV station posted an article on-line entitled, “Louisville judge questioned for dismissing juries based on lack of minorities” about the case. Following that article, the judge published comments on Facebook that included:
- Going to the Kentucky Supreme Court to protect the right to impanel all-white juries is not where we need to be in 2015. Do not sit silently. Stand up. Speak up.
- But whatever you believe the lack of representation is, it is clear that all-white juries are not in the best interest of a community that is 20% black and where the jail population stands at 55% black…. And that is what Tom Wine is trying to do.
- Wine has called me a racist. And set the media on me to deceive the people while he does his deeds. If people, particularly affected people, would stand up and call him out, he would go right back into the corner.
- If you believe you have a right to seat all-white jury panels in Louisville, Kentucky in 2015, tell the people. Wine shouldn’t deceive the people by focusing on me and calling me a racist.
- Tom Wine, the Jefferson Commonwealth Attorney and Louisville’s top prosecutor, is going to the Kentucky Supreme Court to have my ruling overturning and protect his right to seat all-white jury panels in Louisville, Kentucky …. If successful, his actions will have a negative impact on all citizens, particularly our black citizens.
- After his acquittal, the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney Thomas B. Wine filed a motion with the Kentucky Supreme Court to determine I was incorrect in dismissing an all-white jury panel.
- When the prosecution loses a trial and goes complaining to the Kentucky Supreme Court about their entitlement to the all-white jury panel the trial judge set aside, their purpose is readily apparent.
- Complaining he should have had an all-white jury panel after losing a trial is poor form at the very least. At most it is something much more sinister.
- The truth is the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney does not have to pursue his right to impanel all-white juries. He is doing so because he wants to.
- We have received a tremendous outpouring of support from all over the country. Thank you to Dr. Boyce Watkins, Ricky Smile, D.L. Hughley and other national figures who have spoken out in favor of the case and against the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s action before the Kentucky Supreme Court. . .. There is very little question about your intent when a black defendant is acquitted by a jury of eight whites and four blacks and you complain about the trial judge granting a defense motion to dismiss an all-white jury panel.
- If asked, even the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney may offer his “support” for diverse juries. Would that be good enough? Of course not. His actions say the exact opposite.
- History will unfavorably judge a prosecutor who loses a jury trial in which a black man is acquitted and then appeals the matter claiming he is entitled to an all-white jury panel. No matter the outcome, he will live in infamy.
- The Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney is for all white jury panels.
The judge’s criticism of the public defender and criminal defense attorneys included:
- Anybody can say they “support” diverse juries. Especially members of the criminal defense bar. They certainly cannot afford to say they are against them. They would be hypocrites…err…they are hypocrites.
- Why didn’t the Public Defender respond? He did. He just never notified me. You will have to ask him why he remains silent when he is the one who asked me to set aside the jury panel and so many of his clients will be affected by an adverse decision. We have obtained a copy of his response. It is little wonder the motion for certification was granted. The response did not address the issues presented.
- I will be posing some questions to him as to why he said things he said in his response. And why he is quiet when his lawyers routinely ask for the relief I granted him in this case.
- Open letter to the Louisville Metro Public Defender and Louisville Criminal Defense Lawyers: Dear Counsel: Where are you? You asked me to dismiss the jury panel consisting of 40 white jurors and 1 black juror. Yet you are silent. You are the ones who regularly ask me to set aside jury panels for lack of racial diversity. Yet you are silent. The Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney is for all-white jury panels. The people are for racially diverse jury panels. What are you for? Thank you for your consideration. Judge Olu Stevens.
The judge made comments regarding the motion to certify the law while the case was pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court, including:
- If you have ever used Facebook to say “vote for me,” but remain publicly silent or indifferent on this issue that threatens the inclusion of black people and other minorities on our jury panels, shame on you. Stand up for something other than yourself. Speak the truth.
- When a black man is acquitted and then the prosecutor asserts his right to an all-white jury panel, those who remain silent have chosen comfort over principle.