Jews Were Kept Off Death Penalty Juries in A California County for Many Years, New Evidence Shows!

In a significant revelation that has prompted a reassessment of numerous death-row cases, new evidence has surfaced indicating that Jewish jurors, along with Black female jurors, were systematically excluded from participating in death penalty trials in Alameda County, California. This discriminatory practice, which appears to have spanned decades, could potentially affect as many as 35 cases, some dating back to 1977.

The evidence came to light during the appeal of Ernest Dykes, a death-row inmate convicted in 1995 for the murder of a 9-year-old boy during a robbery and attempted murder of the boy’s mother. During the review of his case in 2023, a deputy district attorney discovered handwritten notes made by prosecutors involved in the jury selection process.

These notes included explicit references to the racial and religious backgrounds of prospective jurors, such as “Banker. Jew?” and “Nice guy — thoughtful but never a strong DP leader — Jewish background,” with “DP” referring to the death penalty. Another note simply stated, “Jew? Yes.”

The intentional exclusion of jurors based on race, religion, or gender is a clear violation of constitutional rights. Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price emphasized this at a news conference on April 22, stating, “When you intentionally exclude people based on their race, their religion, their gender or any protected category, it violates the Constitution. The evidence that we have uncovered suggests plainly that many people did not receive a fair trial in Alameda County.”

California has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2019, which means executions have been halted. However, the implications of these findings are profound. At least three individuals have already been resentenced due to the preliminary findings of the review, and many more cases are likely to be scrutinized.

The practice of excluding Jewish jurors appears to have been driven by the perception that Jews are less supportive of capital punishment. This is supported by a 2016 Gallup poll, which found that Jews were generally less supportive of the death penalty compared to other religious groups, although 54% still considered it “morally acceptable.”

This is not the first instance of allegations of bias in jury selection in Alameda County. In 2005, John Quatman, who had served as a deputy district attorney for 26 years, revealed that during a 1987 murder and robbery trial, the presiding judge, Stanley Golde, advised him to exclude Jewish jurors.

Jews Were Kept Off Death Penalty Juries in A California County for Many Years


Golde referenced the controversy in Israel over whether to execute Adolf Eichmann, a principal architect of the Holocaust, as evidence that Jews were generally opposed to the death penalty. Quatman recalled the judge saying, “No Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber.” Eichmann was ultimately executed, but the incident highlighted a broader, systemic issue.

The recent findings underscore a troubling pattern of serious misconduct within the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. As Judge Vince Chhabria noted in his April 22 court order, the notes discovered in the Dykes case, when considered alongside evidence from other cases, strongly suggest a historical pattern of discrimination.

Many Jewish activists have long opposed the death penalty, with some specifically objecting to methods of execution reminiscent of the Holocaust, such as the use of gas chambers. These historical and ethical considerations further underscore the gravity of excluding Jewish jurors from death penalty cases.

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The broader implications of these findings are significant, potentially affecting numerous past convictions and highlighting the need for ongoing vigilance to ensure fair and unbiased legal proceedings. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is now faced with the challenge of addressing these past injustices and restoring integrity to the judicial process.

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