First African-American and Democrat juvenile court judge can’t get a fair Trial in Cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH- September 11, 2014—Judge Tracie Hunter’s trial, supporters are questioning whether she can have a fair trial in Hamilton County, and what it means to have a jury of ones peers?  While there are differing opinions on what constitutes a fair trial, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that courts may not remove a potential juror based solely on his or her race, religion, or gender.

According to Hunter’s supporters, the potential juror pool in this case appears to have been anything but random, composing of a female employee of WCPO TV, which sued Hunter last year; an attorney from Frost, Brown & Todd, the law firm which represented WCPO in that suit; several jurors who said that they personally know juvenile court administrator Curt Kissinger, a possible witness, who has made public statements against Hunter.  Another potential witness said he knows Judge John Williams, the other juvenile court judge.  The potential juror said their children attend the same school. Williams lost the 2010 election to Hunter.  Kissinger and Williams have been opposing forces throughout Hunter’s time on the juvenile court.  Both are listed as potential witnesses in Hunters trial.

One of the alternate jurors says that her relative is a Hamilton County Drug Enforcement Agent. She is also a member of the Women’s Republican club.  Party politics are also expected to play a major role in this case.

Hunter has been charged with nine felonies.  Three charges were for using her court issued card to cover costs of court filing fees, after attorneys James Bogen and Firooz Namei, were paid $50,000 by the county to represent her office and failed to file answers to the nearly 30 lawsuits.  A county treasurers office employee was also in the jury pool.  WCPO TV, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Hamilton County Public Defenders Office, Hamilton County Prosecutors Office, and the Hamilton County Commissioners Office all filed random and frivolous suits against Hunter.

Presiding Judge Norbert Nadel dismissed several black jurors for cause, enabling the prosecutor to retain his peremptory challenges to attain a jury favorable to the prosecution. Four black potential jurors were dismissed consecutively.  The special prosecutor used a peremptory challenge to dismiss two additional potential black jurors.  One was college educated, and said that she felt she could be fair and impartial. Four white potential jurors said that they did not believe that they could be fair and impartial and had already formed an opinion, due to negative publicity on television. Nadel did not dismiss them. Hunter made a motion requesting that Nadel recuse himself. That motion was denied.

A black juror was dismissed for cause for saying, “he could not judge another human being”.  A for cause dismissal can be made by the judge in the event he believes a person cannot be fair and unbiased or is incapable of serving as a juror.  Causes can include acquaintanceship with either of the parties, one of the attorneys or a witness, or the potential juror’s expression of inability to be unbiased due to prior experience in a similar case.

Nadel dismissed a potential juror before the hearing started on Monday morning.  According to defense attorney, Clyde Bennett II, “she appeared to be black, from the answers to her questionnaire”.  Bennett complained after Nadel dismissed the potential juror before the hearing began, “Judge, I should have had the opportunity to question that juror”. 

Prosecutor Joseph Deters released a press release, just three days before the trial, accusing Judge Hunter of being responsible for the deaths of two black boys, who killed each other in mid-August. One of the boys appeared before Judge Hunter last year in September for minor charges. The most he could have served was 6 months. Deters suggested that the boy should have been locked up until he was 21.  News reports stated that the youth had come before several judges in the past for a total of 36 charges prior to getting to Hunters docket.  The other judges who handled the first 36 charges were not named. The child’s mother said Hunter ruled justly and she does not blame Hunter for her son’s death.

Bennett believes Deters statements were “a deliberate attempt to taint the potential jury”.  He re-introduced his motion to have court proceedings moved from Hamilton County for prosecutor vindictiveness.

Carol Freas, a white Hunter supporter feels this jury selection process is a violation of Hunters sixth amendment right to a fair trial. “The jury should represent the community in terms of race, gender, and national origin. With a jury that is 90% white, while in contrast 90% of youth in Hamilton County detention centers are African-American, how can Judge Hunter possibly get a fair trial? This jury pool certainly doesn’t represent the racial composition in Hamilton County, or a jury of Judge Hunter’s peers”. 

Hunter’s attorney has not received requested discovery evidence requested in April from the State of Ohio and the juvenile court. Nadel denied Bennett’s motion to suppress 800 pages submitted to him last Thursday that the prosecutor intends to use for prosecution, despite Bennett’s contention that he would not have the opportunity to properly prepare for Hunters defense given the late nature of this submission of evidence. 

This is clearly racially imbalanced with 10 white jurors and 2 blacks, leaving Hunters fate in the hands of a majority white jury in a case, which will most certainly carry religious and racial undertones in a historically racially charged city.  Police killings of 15 unarmed black men led to a subsequent boycott and several uprisings in Cincinnati in 2001.

Despite empty seats many Hunter supporters were not allowed in the courtroom throughout pre-trial hearings and on the first two days of jury selection.

The treasurers office employee accused a black juror of hugging Judge Hunter after Monday’s hearing. The accused juror publicly denied the accusation in the media. Nadel did not view courtroom tapes to confirm these accusations, considering Hunter’s nearly 25 years on the bench and her understanding of potential juror interaction.

Another potential juror said he was a distant cousin of Judge Hunter.  He was excused along with the remaining potential slate.  Judge Hunter said she doesn’t know the potential juror. Supporters are calling for a Justice Department investigation into how so many people with conflicts of interest and connections to Hamilton County came to be selected? Donate to:


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