By Opio Sokoni
A ministerial alliance is forming to support former Congresswoman Corrine Brown. The key issue for the appeal as stated by Brown’s appeals attorney William Kent is whether the trial judge committed reversible error when he dismissed a disabled veteran juror (Juror #13). The juror told the judge that he had prayed for guidance and been told by the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty. In essence, the juror was removed because he used and openly professed his faith during trial. Religious leaders are becoming interested. The alliance of ministers will be represented by Charles Truncale who will put together an amicus (friend of the court) brief . He recently accompanied Corrine to a Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration in Clay County last week. He states that what the judge did was an assault on Christianity and says it is outrageous and resulted in an unjust verdict.
This week, Corrine Brown lost her bid to stay out of prison as well as her request to report a month later. She is expected to report no later than noon on Jan. 29. She still can pursue the appeal bond to remain free issue up to the Supreme Court. Her main appeal case presented to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia concerning the removal of the juror by the judge could be a major issue with enormous consequences.
Pastors interested are being asked to weigh in and/or become a part of the group forming to challenge the court’s view on the main issue. Attorney Truncale wrote information for dissemination in which he explains the process and issue. The correspondence stated, “An amicus is a group or organization which has an interest in an appeal and an issue presented in the appeal. A group or organization which has an interest in an appeal can file a motion with the court of appeals along with a copy of its proposed brief (a brief is a written motion setting forth legal arguments) and request permission to appear in the appeal as a “friend of the court” (amicus curiae means friend of the court). This is done in coordination with the lawyer representing Congresswoman Brown in the appeal, William Kent.”
Attorney Truncale also wrote, “We have grave concerns regarding the fairness of Congresswoman Brown’s trial and, in particular, the hostile targeting and removal of a juror on grounds of his religious expression. As you may know, during deliberations, it appeared Congresswoman Brown may be acquitted or the jury would deadlock. The government prosecutors then moved the court to dismiss Juror #13 for expressing his faith in God. At all times, this juror indicated that he would assess the evidence presented and base his decision on the evidence alone. This juror was inclined to acquit Congresswoman Brown.”
William Kent argue that the ruling the judge made violated the juror’s First Amendment right of freedom of religion. A ruling for Brown may ultimately cause her conviction to be reversed and set aside and a new trial granted. This can also cause a judgement to be made to free Corrine during her new trial. A ruling against her can then be appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. To be heard, Corrine would have to file a petition to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. A “Petition for Writ Certiorari” is a formal request to the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling.
A file will be created that will go to a pool of Supreme Court clerks. They will review all of the documents and provide a summary for justices to view. The clerks will make a recommendation of whether the case should be taken up by the court. The justices on the Supreme Court will make a final decision. Four of the nine justices are needed for the case to be issued a “writ of certiorari.” Of the over 8,000 petitions to the court, about 1% is granted cert. A petition granted means that at least four justices have determined that the issue and surrounding circumstances is sufficient to warrant review by the entire Court.
If the court deny the Petition for Certiorari, the decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stands as the final decision. If Brown wins, her case will be remanded – meaning sent back down to the lower court responsible for her conviction.
Blacks are often the victims of the criminal justice system but do not have the money to fight back. Removing jurors that fail or refuse to convict seems to happen often in the jury room. Jurors being pressured to go along with other jurors and even threatened with jail if they do not vote a certain way is often expressed as well. Maybe above all, however, a positive ruling for Corrine Brown on this issue will be a win for the First Amendment and faith.