Attorney’s Office Excluded Gay Jurors in Equality 9 Trial

Judge dismisses jury in case of protestors arrested during same-sex marriage demonstration

By Mari Payton and Paul Krueger
|  Wednesday, May 2, 2012  |  Updated 7:24 AM PDT
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Images: Prop 8 Fight

Jeff Herrera

Protesters are asked to move to make way for a citizen who had business in the clerk's office.

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City Attorney Excluded Gay Jurors in Equality 9 Trial

Judge Joan Weber said she was heartbroken that the City Attorneys office challenged one gay juror and dismissed another from the jury pool in the trial of activists arrested during a protest for gay marriage in 2010.
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On Tuesday, a judge ordered a new trial for a group of same-sex marriage supporters after prosecutors challenged one of the jurors on the case.

The trial held Tuesday was for a group of protestors arrested outside the county clerk’s office in August of 2010 – the Equality 9, as they are often called.

The defendants in the case are charged with refusing to disperse and interfering with the business of a public agency.

They were taken into custody during a lengthy sit-down protest in the hallway outside the County Clerk's office on August 19, 2010.

Deputies declared the protest an unlawful assembly and asked the demonstrators to leave. Raw video shows deputies donning riot helmets, batons and a bullhorn as they zip-tied the protesters' wrists behind their backs.

The clerk would not certify marriages for same-sex couples on grounds that a federal district court ruling overturning Prop. 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, was set aside pending appellate review.

As the trial moved forward, the San Diego City Attorney’s office challenged one prospective juror after he acknowledged he was gay and dismissed another gay man from the jury pool.

The office said because the prospective juror had taken part in a gay rights demonstration, he could be biased.

However Judge Joan Weber strongly disagreed. She said she was “heartbroken” over what the city attorney had done. And defense attorneys said the challenge was a blatant, unacceptable violation of everyone's right to a fair trial.

The protestors' attorneys Todd Moore and Gerald echoed that concern, saying the city attorney “systematically excluded those that had a certain sexual orientation.”

On Tuesday, the case was downgraded to an infraction will be decided by a judge, instead of a jury. Weber dismissed the entire jury pool and will meet Wednesday with the prosecution and defense to decide the next steps in the case.

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