Bay Area/ Oakland/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 23, 2024
35 SF Bay Area Death Row Cases Under Scrutiny for Allegedly Excluding Black, Jewish JurorsSource: California Department of Corrections
Ernest Dykes' Case Causes Scrutiny for Other Alameda Cases

Justice may need a retrial in Alameda County after a disconcerting discovery in the case of Ernest Dykes has prompted the review of 35 death penalty cases for potential jury selection biases. Dykes, who was on death row for the murder and attempted murder during a botched robbery in 1993, could see a change in his sentence due to findings that suggest Black and Jewish jurors were intentionally excluded from his trial, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced.

The review comes on the heels of an unsettling find by a Deputy District Attorney who, while working on the Dykes case, stumbled upon handwritten notes. The notes implied that former prosecutors deliberately kept Jewish and Black female jurors off the case—a violation of the Sixth Amendment's impartial jury clause. "The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by an impartial jury of one’s peers," DA Pamela Price said, as the Alameda County District Attorney's Office reported. "Any practice by prosecutors to eliminate potential jurors because of their race betrays that core pillar of the criminal justice system," added Price.

In a statement by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, the office underscored the gravity of such exclusionary tactics, "A Wheeler violation is prejudicial per se because racial discrimination in jury selection undermines the structural integrity of the criminal tribunal itself." The named Wheeler violation pertains to a California legal precedent to prevent discrimination in the juror selection process.

As a result of the evidence found in the Dykes case, Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. Federal District Court has ordered a review process for all capital cases tried in Alameda County. This sizable review could affect the outcomes of historical cases and the families of victims and survivors, whom the District Attorney's Office has already contacted for support and information. On April 26, an open event organized in association with Broken by Violence will offer trauma-informed support for those affected by these potential miscarriages of justice.