Did race cause rape case mistrial? | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Did race cause rape case mistrial?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 6:28 AM

John Brummett wades into a sensitive, but important topic today. Add to the question of whether a black person can get a fair trial from white jurors the question of whether a white crime victim can get fair consideration trial from black jurors weighing a rape case against a black defendant. On the white end of the spectrum, the feeling is strong that the prosecution presented a sufficient case on strong DNA evidence to convict Curtis Vance, TV anchor Anne Pressly's killer, of raping a white Marianna school teacher. The actual vote of the hung jury's members isn't known, but the belief is strong that black jurors, who constituted a majority of the panel, favored acquittal. Vance was not identified by the victim (she said her attacker said he'd kill her if she looked at him); his defense lawyer expressed skepticism (though no expert testimony to buttress that skepticism) about DNA testing. Comments Brummett:

All people, but black people in the Delta in this specific context, must be able and willing to accept plain and overwhelming evidence of criminal guilt. They must be willing in the vital interest of justice to punish appropriately the perpetrator, the menace to the community, no matter the skin color and in spite of understandably deep resentment and distrust brought on by long and sordid histories of racism as manifested most vividly by unfairness against blacks in the criminal justice system.

The counter, of course, is that "beyond a reasonable doubt" is a high standard and people of good faith, coincidentally black, might have felt it was not reached in this case. For what it's worth, I'd have given strong consideration to the DNA evidence, particularly given that Vance, though he later retracted the admission, confessed the rape to Little Rock police.

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