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More attorneys have come forward to say that it was an “old and comfortable practice” for Alameda County, Calif., prosecutors to weed out Jews and other groups from death penalty juries in the 1980s, according to court papers recently filed by a death row inmate’s lawyers. In an interview with a defense lawyer, former Oakland prosecutor Alexander Selvin purportedly said that his colleagues tended not to want black women or Jews on their capital juries. Current District Attorney Tom Orloff and former DA D. Lowell Jensen would never have “tolerated” a formal policy of exclusion, the declaration by defense lawyer Lawrence Gibbs says in summarizing the interview with Selvin. Nevertheless, Selvin, a death penalty prosecutor who now lives in New Mexico, told Gibbs it was common knowledge in the capital unit that this practice was routinely followed. Fred Freeman’s lawyers want the California Supreme Court to overturn their client’s 1987 death penalty conviction because, they say, the prosecutor conspired with the judge to keep Jews off the jury. Their case is built around prosecutor John “Jack” Quatman’s claim that he followed Judge Stanley Golde’s voir dire advice to steer clear of Jews. Quatman claimed that it was standard practice among prosecutors to exclude Jews and black women from juries. In July, the California Supreme Court issued an order to show cause, asking the attorney general to explain why Freeman’s sentence shouldn’t be overturned. ‘Simply inconceivable’ In August, prosecutors fired back and asked for an evidentiary hearing. It was “simply inconceivable” that Golde, who was Jewish and died in 1998, would have said such a thing, declared Jensen, now a federal judge. John Meehan, another former DA who was Quatman’s boss at the time, added that it was “dishonest” for Quatman to say that there was an office policy about keeping certain groups off juries. Freeman’s attorneys-led by Michael Laurence and Gary Sowards of the state’s Habeas Corpus Resource Center-recently attempted to strengthen their case with voir dire records and two declarations: one from a lawyer who interviewed Selvin and another from a former defense lawyer who tried cases in Alameda County during the 1980s. “Prosecutors’ routine challenging of African-American, Jewish and classes of other jurors was commonly discussed among attorneys and was evident to any minimally observant lawyer,” said Lawrence Boxer, an ex-public defender and now a civil litigator and adjunct professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, in a declaration. “It was described as tactical information provided to newer deputies, there being no need to have such explicit discussions with experienced deputies for whom it was an old and comfortable practice,” Boxer said. Freeman’s lawyers also reviewed jury selection records for five capital cases that were tried around the time of the Freeman case. All prospective jurors who identified themselves as Jewish or had Jewish-sounding surnames were removed by prosecutors’ peremptory challenges, the inmate’s lawyers say. The case is Freeman on Habeas Corpus, No. S122590.

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