ADL Welcomes Appeals Court Decision Reversing Tainted Jury Verdict
St. Louis, MO, January 20, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the decision today by the Missouri Court of Appeals to vacate the jury verdict in Michelle Fleshner v. Pepose Vision Institute, a civil case now pending in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
The case presented an issue of first impression in Missouri: whether a verdict should be overturned based upon expressed anti-Semitic prejudice among jury members during deliberations. ADL had filed a friend-of-the-Court brief arguing that the extreme prejudice evidenced by reported comments of some of the jurors left high potential that the verdict resulted from unfairness in the judicial process.
The League sought a reversal that would allow the trial judge to examine the potential misconduct and issue a new trial should the judge determine that allegations of bias were credible.
ADL expressed disappointment that the Court vacated the case on technical grounds, "but it offers a rare opportunity," says regional Civil Rights Committee Chair Steve Kraft, "for us to bring greater awareness to how juror bias plays out in society and how significant its impact can be."
"We are relieved that Dr. Pepose will have another opportunity to defend," said John Wallach, Chair of the Regional Advisory Board of ADL. "While the comments involved anti-Semitism against a Jewish defendant, this is the kind of case where any kind of prejudice could have been at issue."
ADL St. Louis Regional Director Karen Aroesty echoed the sentiment: "Whether and how a court can review prejudice if it is exposed is crucial to an unbiased justice system. This case should be a wake-up call for those who represent plaintiffs and defendants that juror prejudice is something to be questioned very carefully before the case gets underway – and while lawyers often consider race, they also need to look carefully at any form of bigotry or prejudice."
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.