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The jury has stolen the spotlight in the aftermath of Oakland’s extraordinary Riders police misconduct trial. Former police officers Clarence Mabanag, Jude Siapno and Matthew Hornung were accused of using illegal tactics to crack down on West Oakland drug dealers: planting evidence, brutalizing suspects and covering it up with falsified police reports. On Tuesday, the panel acquitted the so-called “Riders” of eight crimes and hung on the remaining 27 charges. Although many of the Riders’ alleged victims were black, there were no black jurors on the main panel, leading some to speculate that the prosecution made critical missteps in jury selection. Others, including a juror and attorneys who tried the case, argue that while the jury composition played a role, numerous factors �� ranging from witness credibility to stubborn jurors �� led to the case’s outcome. While some experts say black jurors could have made a difference on the jury, the deputy DA who tried the case, David Hollister, isn’t convinced. According to Hollister, there were just 113 eligible jurors from a pool of 680. Of those 113, only 13 were black. Since both sides had 25 peremptory challenges for the main pool of jurors and six for the alternate juror candidates, the chances that a panelist would be black were remote, said Hollister, who is now the No. 2 in the Plumas County DA’s office. Ultimately, two Latinas and one Asian woman ended up on the main panel, and the rest of the jury was white. The attorneys say one man on the main panel also appeared to be Latino, but they say they were never able to confirm that. Of the four female alternates, two were black, one was Hispanic and the other was white. Hollister said he was resigned to the fact that getting blacks on the jury “was not going to happen.” After speaking with six jurors for an hour Tuesday, Hollister said, he thinks black jurors may have changed a few votes, but, given the core of immovable conservative jurors, the final result likely would have been the same. According to Hollister, jurors told him that after deliberations began, one panel member declared that the officers were not guilty, and he refused to change his mind. During jury selection, Hollister said, he had concerns about particular jurors, but thought he could sway them with evidence. Now, he realizes that those jurors caused the deadlocks, Hollister said. “Our hope was to get a core group with open minds that was socially liberal,” the prosecutor said. “In hindsight, I would have taken that to the extreme.” Michael Rains, who led the legal team for the ex-cops, downplayed the role of race on the jury. He didn’t try to tinker with the jury’s racial composition, and both sides challenged prospective black jurors, he said. “Frankly, we had high marks for some African-American jurors” whose names were too far down the list to make it on the jury panel, said Rains, who represented Mabanag. In fact, the sole Wheeler motion �� an argument that the opposing side is trying to skew the racial composition of the jury — was made by the defense, which claimed that Hollister was trying to weed out prospective Filipino jurors (two of the defendants were Filipino). The motion was never litigated, Hollister said. In an interview, a juror who asked to remain anonymous said, “The way that the evidence fell, it really wasn’t an issue.” Socioeconomic differences were a bigger problem, said the 52-year-old juror, who said he has served on three other juries. Some of the Riders jurors were “surprised” that “you could make more money selling drugs than by getting a job.” However, two experts said prosecutors should have fought harder to keep blacks on the jury. A black juror “could have been a persuasive voice,” said Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris. Jurors who are not black are more likely to be swayed by a “noble corruption” defense in police misconduct cases �� that the “ends justify the means,” Burris said. A black juror “could have dispelled the notion that just because a person has a criminal history that does not mean that they don’t have constitutional protections.” Emeryville jury consultant Howard Varinsky said a more aggressive strategy to retain black jurors may have helped the prosecution. “Would diversity �� meaning African-Americans �� have made a difference? Absolutely,” said Varinsky. The consultant has worked on many notable cases, including the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma bombing case, on behalf of prosecutors in the San Francisco dog-mauling case and for several civil police misconduct cases. Hollister could have made it known to the defense and the press that he planned to challenge any attempt to spike black jurors with a Wheeler motion, Varinsky said. That would have put legal and political pressure on the defense to keep a few blacks on the panel. Hollister said he didn’t bring a Wheeler motion because time wasn’t on his side. If Judge Leopoldo Dorado had granted it, the whole 680-person jury pool would have been discharged and jury selection would have had to start from scratch. Lengthening the trial would have only helped the defense, Hollister explained, so using more time to sift through another jury pool seemed too risky at the time, he said. “That’s not good enough, from my point of reference,” Burris said, speculating that Hollister may have been uncomfortable arguing Wheeler because it is typically a defense attorney’s position. “The stakes were too high.” The Riders jurors, attorneys and other experts agreed that many other factors led to the case’s result. According to the juror, he and the rest of the panel struggled with the magnitude of the case. “It was overwhelming to sit there with 35 charges,” said the juror, known as juror No.9. The jurors spent a lot of time trying to sort out the conspiracy allegations, which were “a big hang up” and tough for Hollister to prove. Both sides had credibility issues, the juror said. He was alarmed that the whistle-blower, rookie officer Keith Batt, was “nonchalant” about inconsistencies in his testimony. Instead of building a case around Batt and other officers who “had holes in their testimony,” Hollister should have depended more on the credible testimony from DA investigator Bob Connor. On the defense side, the juror said attorneys could have screened their witnesses better. He recalled an incident where a female officer claimed on the witness stand that she didn’t write a report, and Hollister showed that she had. “It was a bad scene,” the juror said. Hollister, the defense attorneys and juror No.9 agree that there were deep ideological divisions on the panel. Rains — who says he interviewed “seven or eight jurors” after the trial — says one juror told him the defense could have rested after the prosecution finished its case because he wasn’t convinced by Hollister’s case. Even with the best set of circumstances, prosecutors face an uphill battle when they tackle police misconduct, one expert said. Typically, jurors go out of their way to put themselves in officers’ shoes and give them the benefit of the doubt �� even when other evidence points to misconduct �� said Susan Steinfeld, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney who spent five years of her 14-year career prosecuting police misconduct. “They are the most difficult cases that I’ve prosecuted,” she said. The juror, who noted that the panel used a considerable amount of time to sift through the court materials so it could make informed decisions, urged DA Tom Orloff to retry a streamlined case, because a new jury may reach more verdicts. “There were so many charges and so much at stake. There were so many people that were affected by this,” the juror said, adding that more verdicts would have given closure to the accused officers and the victims. “I feel bad that it did not come to a different outcome,” he said.

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