COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Two men serving time for armed robbery could get another trial or possibly walk free because of the way a Cobb County prosecutor eliminated a juror.
Channel 2's Ross Cavitt learned the convictions were thrown out because of that juror's gold teeth.
"The reason that they gave was not race neutral," attorney Ashleigh Merchant told Cavitt.
Merchant had filed the appeal on behalf of Duvalle Minor and Robert Clayton. In late 2011, jurors found the pair guilty of armed robbery and a judge sentenced them to serve 10 years in prison.
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But it was the elimination of a man who did not make it on the jury, an African-American with gold teeth, that prompted the appellate court to toss out the verdict.
The assistant DA told the judge he objected to the potential juror because of his criminal record and because he had gold teeth. He said his opposition to gold teeth was not racially based; he thought anybody who had them liked to stand out.
"We are entitled to have a jury that people have not been excluded because they’re members of certain races. And so you can’t get around that, by saying, 'I’m going to exclude this person because they have gold teeth,'" Merchant told Cavitt.
The Cobb County prosecutor told Judge Adele Grubbs that his gold teeth argument was not race based. She agreed.
But the Georgia Court of Appeals found otherwise in its opinion finding the prosecutor's strike of the juror was based on a racial stereotype
It went on to say the judge's ruling that the reasoning was race-neutral was a clear error.
“They can strike them for any reason, but they have got to be able to put on the record a race-neutral reason. So you can’t strike jurors for sex, you can’t strike jurors for race. And those are things that the court holds clearly with this opinion, holds very dear,” Merchant said.
The defendants in this case have been in prison for more than five years of their 10-year sentence. They will likely remain there for now. The DA’s office confirmed to Cavitt they have filed a motion for reconsideration in this case.
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