The majority of the federal jurors entrusted with finding the truth about the allegations against state Sen. Charles Walker are white, the public learned Tuesday morning.
What, if anything, that might mean to the government and to Mr. Walker's supporters is debatable, experts said Tuesday.
The jury is composed of 16 people, 12 jurors and four alternates. Only three are black, like the senator. Half are men.
Attorneys on both sides can disqualify a certain number of potential jurors for any reason except race or gender. If an attorney's use of strikes is challenged by the other side, he must provide a race-neutral reason for removing the particular juror. If he cannot, the judge can alter the composition of the jury.
On Monday night, U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. replaced four black jurors with white men.
Mr. Walker's defense attorney, Edward Garland, made a motion for a mistrial Tuesday because he said Mr. Walker did not have a jury of his peers.
"Much more important than race are the issues that give the juror a stake in the outcome of the case," District Attorney Danny Craig said Tuesday.
"I'll tell you what I tell new prosecutors when I instruct on jury selection: 'If race is an issue in your mind, then I guarantee you it will be in the minds of the jurors. If you have a race problem, you better overcome it,'" he wrote in an e-mail.
Local defense attorneys, however, beg to differ.
Although prosecutors might say race does not play a role in jury selection, Charles H.S. Lyons III said, it does anyway,
"The prosecution tends to believe the whiter the jury, the more likely you are to get a conviction," he said. "When you get blacks on a jury, they are more likely to question the evidence."
The polarizing issue of race can't be avoided in this trial, said Pete Theodocion, who is representing former state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko, who is also charged with fraud in a federal indictment.
"You can't run away from it, it's just fact," he said.
Because the jury pool is composed of people from the entire Southern District of the federal court - a 43-county area - it would be harder to challenge the makeup of the jury as a jury not of a defendant's peers, Mr. Theodocion said.
The racial breakdown of the entire district - 64 percent white, 33 percent black - is far different from that of Mr. Walker's home Richmond County, which is almost 50 percent black, according to the U.S. Census.
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The following is the breakdown of population by race in the U.S. Court of the Southern District of Georgia, a 43-county federal court district that stretches from Washington, Ga., to the Florida border. The pool of jurors in the trial of state Sen. Charles Walker was drawn from the entire district.
Race Population Total Percentage
American Indian/Alaskan3,506less than 1
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander1,021less than 1
Two or more races16,5611
Source: U.S. Census