CA’s Racial Justice Act cited in murder conviction reversal of two men

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The murder convictions of two East Contra Costa men were reversed by a Superior Court judge last week, who ruled that the prosecutor and police testimony violated the Racial Justice Act of 2020, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

The Racial Justice Act prohibits the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction or from imposing a sentence based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. But it was prospective only, excluding judgments rendered before January 1, 2021. The Racial Justice Act for All, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month, makes the Racial Justice Act retroactive to anyone who was subjected to unfair convictions and sentences. 

It’s expected that Gary Bryant, Jr., who was sentenced to 53 years to life in prison, and Diallo Jackson, sentenced to 50 years to life in prison in 2017, will be retried for the killing of 23-year-old Kenneth Cooper in 2014.

The reversal was largely based on the fact that the prosecutor, defense, and an expert witness all used the n-word when they quoted rap lyrics by the defendants. “The defendant claims that the use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence primed the jury for racial bias based on stereotypes of African American men as violent. . . . the court agrees,” Judge Clare Maier wrote.

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