/Race-based jury at heart of death-case appeal

Race-based jury at heart of death-case appeal

The March 2015 ruling of U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson to give Lisa Jo Chamberlin a fresh trial is at issue. Reeves stated that prosecutors had wrongfully excluded blacks from Chamberlin’s potential jury pool. Chamberlin is white. Elizabeth Carlyle, a Missouri attorney representing Chamberlin in this case, stated that discrimination on the basis of race has an impact on the entire judicial and jury systems. Chamberlin was convicted by a Forrest County jury in 2006 in the deaths two people. Carlyle stated that the district court correctly found race-based discrimination in Chamberlin’s trial’s jury process. Jackson attorney Michael Cowen assisted Carlyle. He stated that the trial’s prosecutor didn’t ask potential jurors any questions in open court and instead relied only on their responses to a 50 question questionnaire. Cameron Benton, the assistant attorney general representing the state, claimed that Reeves’ decision not to release Chamberlin and allow a new trial was wrong. Benton stated to the judges, “I don’t believe we have clear evidence that discrimination took place.” She requested that Reeves’ decision be reversed and the case sent back to him for reconsideration. Chamberlin, a native of Oregon, was convicted of two capital murder charges involving Hattiesburg’s robbery and the brutal deaths of two persons. Chamberlin and her codefendant are accused of murdering the couple and transporting their dismembered bodies from Oregon to Kansas where they were found in a freezer. Reeves’ decision was appealed by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office to the 5th Circuit. The state appealed Reeves’ decision, stating that the case didn’t involve any race issues because Chamberlin was white and the victims were also white. Reeves was also criticized by the Attorney General for not allowing Chamberlin to be released from prison. W. Eugene Davis and Edith Clement were the federal appeals court judges who heard arguments Tuesday. Gregg J. Costa was also present. Clement, who is suffering from bronchitis wrote questions which Davis requested. Cowen stated that he wants a fair outcome for his client after the hearing. Carlyle stated that Chamberlin’s claim of racial bias during jury selection was only one of the more than a dozen issues they appealed. Reeves only ruled on the jury selection process. Carlyle stated that they will revisit the other issues if they fail to win the 5th Circuit appeal regarding racial bias. After Chamberlin was convicted and sentenced, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed her appeal to the U.S. District Court. 47 Mississippi prisoners are currently awaiting execution. Many of them are only a matter of a few legal proceedings from receiving their lethal injections. The youngest inmate is 29 years old, while the oldest is 68. Twenty-six are of white heritage, 26 are black, and one is of Asian descent.