Public Safety

Appeal will allow convicted Iowa City man to argue selection of jury pool violated his rights

His conviction is upheld on condition until District Court makes determination

(Dreamstime/TNS)
(Dreamstime/TNS)

DES MOINES — The Iowa Court of Appeals is giving another chance to an Iowa City man, who was convicted on multiple charges related to drunken driving and drugs, to show that his constitutional right to have a jury that is a representative of his community was violated during his trial last year.

The court upheld the Linn County convictions of Lundell Buchanan, 45, “on condition” and ordered the trial judge to develop the record on the Buchanan’s challenge that the composition of the jury, which was all white, didn’t represent him, according to Wednesday’s ruling.

Buchanan is black.

On the morning of the trial last year, Mike Lahammer, Buchanan’s lawyer, argued to strike the entire jury panel because it wasn’t a “fair cross section of the community,” according to the ruling.

The initial 25 prospective jurors were white, as well as those in the remaining jury pool, Lahammer pointed out.

The prosecution resisted, arguing Buchanan didn’t present any evidence that the system for selecting jurors is based on race or excludes race, according to the ruling.

Lahammer said he would like the opportunity to research the way Linn County residents are selected. But 6th Judicial Associate District Judge Casey Jones denied his request, citing lack of evidence to show “systematic exclusion” and noting “it is clear that Linn County is vastly Caucasian.”

The appeals court said defendants are entitled to access information regarding how the jury pools are selected to enforce their constitutional right to a jury that is a representative cross section of the community, according to the ruling. The trial judge should have allowed the defense to investigate it, the judges said.

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The court based its decision on a 2017 Black Hawk County harassment conviction. A black defendant, Kelvin Plain Sr., objected to the racial composition of his jury. Blacks represented 8.9 percent of the population in that county, but the pool had only one black man among 56 potential jurors.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the case should be sent back to the trial court to make the determination if the racial composition violated his right to an impartial jury.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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