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What They Said

Excerpts from Sara Catania’s interview with death-row inmate Stanley Williams, who is asking the courts to consider claims of racial bias in jury selection on his case.

L.A. WEEKLY: Do you think there was racial bias in the selection of the jury at your trial?

STANLEY WILLIAMS: It was axiomatic to me. It was self-evident. The fact that the D.A., Robert Martin, has committed similar improprieties in other cases. He has a background for targeting low-income minority males. This case was no different.

When you were sitting there watching him during the trial, did you see any examples of him using a biased approach with African-Americans in the jury pool?

Unfortunately, my recollection is somewhat obscured because of things that happened to me during that period. The D.A. had managed to get a court order to have me placed in the L.A. County medical ward under the guise of having my phone calls and visitors monitored. While I was there, I was placed in five points, meaning I was strapped in a bunk with a leather strap attached to each wrist and both ankles and one across my chest, and periodically I was intravenously drugged with some type of psychotropic medication. That occurred from 1979 to 1981.

So you’d show up in court and be drugged in some way.

I’d be out of it.

Do you think having African-Americans on the jury would have affected the outcome of that trial?

Well, I’m not a mentalist or anything, but if there were blacks on the jury, one could at least say that I was, in a sense, adjudicated by my own peers. It would at least have been from my ethnic background.

One of the points you raise to bolster your racial-bias argument is that Robert Martin likened you during trial to a Bengal tiger. Why is that racist?

He has an affinity for referring to minorities as wild animals. He did liken me to a Bengal tiger that lived in a jungle society. The inference was loud and clear.

Couldn’t he just have been saying this person did a bad thing, they were acting wild, like a wild animal?

No. You can use other terminology, other than making me akin to some type of animal.

Since you’ve been on death row there have been 10 executions. Now your case is nearing the end. Appeals are running out. How do you deal with that?

Anyone with a rational mind would have it in the back of their mind as long as they’re here. It’s something that I’m not oblivious to. I know that the possibility exists. I refuse to allow it to disrupt my ability to do the things I’m doing.

You remember Hurricane Carter? You remember how everybody doubted his innocence? There were a lot of people in opposition to him. That’s the way it is.

Let’s face it, my checkered past makes it appear to be somewhat dubious in regards to my innocence. I assume that a person would just look at that and predetermine that I’m automatically culpable.

Do you have any idea who committed these crimes?

No. Unfortunately, I don’t.

 

Excerpts from L.A. Weekly writer Sara Catania’s interview with retired Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Robert Martin, who is accused of racial bias in jury selection on the Stanley Williams case.

On the California Supreme Court overturning two of his death-penalty convictions because of racial bias:

ROBERT MARTIN: It is very disappointing to find out that a court working from a record makes interpretations and opinions about what is in somebody’s mind. I think part of it is that judges don’t believe that a prosecutor has as much information and insight about a black person or a Hispanic as they do about a white person. In other words, you can have all the insights you want, and you can throw out as many whites as you want, but you can’t have insights as to a minority juror.

On his jury-selection process:

At the time of jury selection I keep very good notes, and I give each juror a grade as if I were a teacher, in other words, 90, 95, 80, 70, 65. It has nothing to do with their ethnic background. It has to do with their answers to questions. What you try to do if you can is get jurors who score around 90 or 85. After the trial is over, you usually have the whole thing boxed up. But all of my notes and everything else I throw in the wastebasket, and then I start on my new case. There are all kinds of things in there, telephone calls, people that I talked to, et cetera. Why should I keep all of that?

L.A. WEEKLY: Do you have any recollection of what your assessments of those three African-American jurors were and why you chose to exclude them?

ROBERT MARTIN: No, I don’t, and what I try to do is to ask every juror similar questions when I find that they are sort of wobbly. And they are tough questions. I say things like, if you were in the jury room and the jurors had all found — 11 jurors had found him guilty — and you are the 12th juror to vote, and you know if you vote then the person will receive the sentence of death, would you hesitate to vote?

So you wind up with people from the post office, from the welfare rolls, retired people. People where the government will actually pay them while they serve as jurors. Not all people are completely honest with you. Therefore you try to go beyond that to see if you can find out what they really think. Some people like to be on a jury, especially a death-penalty case that’s going to be for a long time and they won’t go to work and they’ll get paid anyway.


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