A New York judge declared a mistrial in the case of a black man accused of killing his 3-year-old stepson in 2011, after jurors said they were deadlocked because the lone white juror on the panel was a racist who was holding out for a conviction, reports the New York Daily News.
Defendant Keno Roberts, 36, was acquitted earlier this month on murder charges in the death of his stepson, Jordan Rogers, after being held without bail for four years on Rikers Island. However the jury was unable to reach a verdict of not guilty on a second-degree manslaughter charge filed against Roberts, with jurors claiming the one white member was a racist who was disregarding facts in the case.
Juror Susana Valette, explained, “The outcome we got was based on racism, not on the evidence that was presented to us.”
According to the Daily News, the jury was comprised of blacks, Latinos and Asians, except for the one older white member, identified only as “Juror No. 7.”
With the jury unable to reach a decision, Judge Barbara Newman was forced to call a mistrial after meeting the jurors and interviewing the holdout, saying she didn’t see any evidence of bias before stating for the record that the man was “not a loose cannon.”
According to several jurors, the holdout claimed Roberts must be guilty because he was indicted by a black Bronx district attorney, Robert Johnson.
“It’s not based on the evidence,” said juror Tatiana Burgos, 44. “It was racism. In his mind, this man was guilty until proven innocent and not the other way around.”
Jury foreman Juan Pena-Cruz agreed, “He’s like, the district attorney of the Bronx is black, and if he didn’t think he was guilty he wouldn’t have indicted him in the first place.”
Jury deliberations grew so contentious that the white juror complained to the judge that he had been physically threatened by fellow jurors and requested protection. According to the man who identified himself as a retired teacher named Joe, he didn’t think much of his fellow jurors and accused several of them of napping during deliberations.
“I’m not saying these people are bad, but the level of sophistication is very low,” he said in an interview, before adding that it was the other jurors who injected race into the deliberations.
According to several jurors, the evidence in the case pointed to the child’s mother, Shanika Rogers, who was not indicted in the death of her child.