Courtroom/File (Photo: CBS 2)
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York attorney is taking the complicated process of picking a jury to a new extreme. He represents a suspected terrorist and asked a judge to keep Jews off the panel.
Inside Brooklyn Federal Court, attorney Frederick Cohn told Judge Eric Vitaliano, “I’m not wild about having Jews on the jury in this case,” CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported.
Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, a Muslim, is charged with making false statements in connection with a terrorism offense. His attorney told the court he didn’t believe his client could get a fair trial if Jews are on the jury.
“Given that there’s going to be inflammatory testimony about Jews and Zionism, I think it would be hard for Jews to cast aside any innate antipathy,” Cohn said.
For the record, Cohn is Jewish.
“The notion that Jews cannot serve in a jury and be objective is simply offensive to us,” said Etzion Neuer of the Anti-Defamation League.
Seeking to ban Jews from a jury won little public sympathy outside the court.
“I’m not wild about his opinion. It’s rather discriminatory,” one person said.
“This is America. This is New York. We’re a melting pot,” another person said.
“Regardless of your race you should be able to participate in the judicial system,” another added.
Attorney Cohn told CBS 2’s Langford he was not available for an on-camera interview, acknowledging he made what he called a bad mistake.
However, some legal veterans said juries aren’t a matter of presenting a cross section of the community.
“The issue is fair and impartial jurors. It’s not like you have to have somebody from this religion, somebody from that religion,” criminal defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt said.
Cohn said the judge ruled against his attempt to ban Jews from serving as jurors. Jury selection is set to begin later this week.
A 1986 Supreme Court ruling held that jurors cannot be excluded solely on the basis of their race.