ADL Calls for Investigation Into Allegations of Anti-Semitism in Jury Room
Update 1/22/09: The Missouri Court of Appeals vacated the lower court's verdict. More >>
St. Louis, MO, July 23, 2008
Arguing that anti-Semitism "is vile, shocks the conscience, and has no place in our system of justice," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today asked a Missouri appeals court to order a lower court to investigate allegations that anti-Semitic comments permeated a St. Louis jury room during deliberations about a civil matter.
Karen Aroesty, ADL St. Louis Regional Director, issued the following statement:
This case revolves around shocking allegations by a jury member that fellow jury members used viciously anti-Semitic slurs to describe two key Jewish defense witnesses. The jury returned a verdict against the defendant.
Anti-Semitism has no place in our system of justice and a verdict resulting from the bias or prejudice of the jury cannot be permitted to stand. Such allegations should have led to an immediate and full investigation by the trial court. If the court found those claims to be credible, it should have ordered a new trial.
In America, a Jewish defendant should not have to worry about whether his or her fate will be decided by jurors who espouse anti-Semitism. The Missouri Court of Appeals should make this basic tenet of justice clear.
The underlying case a civil dispute ended with a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. After the verdict was announced, a juror approached the defendant's counsel, and said that other jurors had made anti-Semitic remarks during deliberations. A second juror confirmed that there was anti-Semitism in the jury room.
One juror alleged that she had heard another jury member call one witness "
a Jewish witch;" "
a Jewish bitch;" "
. a penny-pinching Jew;" and "
. a cheap Jew
." Another comment was made referring to the owner and president of the defendant company (also a key witness), that "the Jew . . . makes [millions] per year and should pay money to the Plaintiff in this case."
ADL's brief argues that while American law has always protected the sanctity of jury deliberations, basic notions of justice, fairness and due process of law require that a verdict resulting from the bias or prejudice of the jury cannot be permitted to stand.
The case, Pepose Vision Institute v. Fleshner, is currently before the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District. Attorneys J. Bennett Clark, Emma Harty and James M. Weiss of Bryan Cave LLP in St. Louis prepared ADL's brief.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.