GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ The Michigan Supreme Court will look at the case of a black Grand Rapids man whose sexual-assault conviction was overturned because there was only one black in the jury pool.
The court said Thursday it wants lawyers to file briefs on several issues, including whether the lack of blacks in Kent County jury pools in 2001-02 was the result of systematic exclusion, a key point in a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court decision on the racial makeup of juries.
In 2002, Ramon Bryant, now 26, was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and armed robbery. The lone black in the jury pool was not picked to be a juror.
The U.S. Constitution grants a criminal defendant the right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community. Kent County was more than 80 percent white in 2000.
The county has admitted that its computerized system years ago did not select jurors at random across all ZIP codes. The state appeals court last year granted Bryant a new trial, saying it's irrelevant that the problem was not intentional.
“We are not taking the position that a county or any unit of government has the right to exclude any group,'' said Timothy McMorrow of the county prosecutor's office, who persuaded the Supreme Court to take the case.
“The real question is, `Did what happen here violate his constitutional rights?' We say it did not,'' McMorrow said. “There's no question his trial was fair. The matter is how the jury was selected.''
Bryant's lawyer, Arthur Rubiner, said he was disappointed to learn the Supreme Court was stepping in.
“Obviously they have some doubts about the Court of Appeals opinion,'' Rubiner said. “I was hoping they would just affirm and my client would get a fair retrial. I guess not _ at least not for a while.''
Just 16 at the time, Bryant was sentenced as an adult to at least 12 years in prison. He's eligible for parole in 2013.