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Court lifts conviction after Ho-Chunk woman stricken from jury

Filed Under: Law
More on: crime, ho-chunk, race, wisconsin

An appeals court in Wisconsin reversed a drunken driving conviction because a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation was wrongly removed from the jury pool.

During jury selection, Jody Whiteagle acknowledged that two defense witnesses for Karen Lynne Snow, who was charged with drunken driving, were friends of her father. But she maintained that she would be able to judge the case fairly.

The district attorney had her stricken anyway. He said he didn't trust her because she is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

"I am aware that family ties, especially in the Ho-Chunk traditional culture, are extremely strong, and I do not accept her explanation she doesn’t socialize with them and can be fair," said Jackson County District Attorney Gerald Fox, according to the court's decision.

Fox later realized that his explanation was faulty and joined Snow in asking for a new trial. Judge Thomas Lister, however, refused to grant the request, leading to the decision that was issued yesterday.

"[T]he prosecutor in this case did not have specific, race-neutral explanations for striking Whiteeagle." Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg of the District 4 Court of Appeals wrote.

"To the contrary, the prosecutor explicitly mentioned Whiteeagle’s membership in a cognizable class during his explanation, and linked such membership to his belief that she would not weigh potential witnesses’ testimony without bias," Kloppenburg continued.

Whiteagle would have been the only Native person on the jury had she not been removed from consideration.

Get the Story:
Appeals court: Judge erred in booting Ho-Chunk juror (The La Crosse Tribune 4/5)
Dismissing Ho-Chunk juror deemed as discriminatory (The Shawano Leader 4/4)
Drunken driving conviction reversed on prosecutor's 'Ho Chunk culture' remark (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 4/4)

Wisconsin Appeals Court Decision:
State v. Snow (April 4, 2012)

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