According to HuffPost, one of the lawyers on the second impeachment trial team of Donald Trump previously used racial stereotypes to kick Black people off a jury, claiming that one of them “shucked and jived” in court.
Greg Harris is one of four lawyers in South Carolina who make up Trump’s impeachment team’s “core.”
Harris will be defending a former racist president who inspired a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob that included a large contingent of white supremacists.
In 1989, when Harris served as an assistant solicitor in South Carolina’s 5th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office, the South Carolina Supreme Court found that he had used racial stereotypes to strike two Black jurors during a DUI trial.
Though the South Carolina Supreme Court didn’t explicitly name Harris in the ruling, HuffPost confirmed that he was the prosecutor in question. In the DUI case, Philip Mace, the counsel for the Black female claimant, told HuffPost that Harris used nine out of 10 of his strikes against Black prospective jurors over the course of two trials.
Mace said, “When I challenged him on it, Greg said he didn’t have a racist or discriminatory bone in his body. I remember that.”
In one case, Harris struck a 43-year-old Black juror who he believed walked too slow, spoke too low, and was somewhat old. In another case, during jury selection, he told the trial judge he hit another prospective juror because he was unemployed and “seemed disinterested.” But he added a racial stereotype as well.
Harris told the court, “I watched him as he walked from the jury panel to the microphone, and I have noted that he ― he shucked and jived is what I had. That’s just my analysis of the way he walked up here.”
Initially, the trial judge at the time didn’t find Harris’s use of a stereotype to be a pattern of racial discrimination and that Harris had articulated racially neutral motives for striking jurors.
The South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed.
Although unemployment was held up as a race-neutral reason for hitting a juror, as was the case in many jurisdictions, the South Carolina Supreme Court found the use of a racial stereotype “troublesome” by Harris and proof of deliberate discrimination.
“The trial court failed to inquire into or comment on the prosecutor’s explanation that the juror was struck because he ‘shucked and jived.’ The use of this racial stereotype is evidence of the prosecutor’s subjective intent to discriminate,” the court ruled in 1989.
The Supreme Court ruled that if defendants bring an equal protection argument based on the unfair use of peremptory challenges, the limited number of objections that lawyers can make about proposed jurors without giving a reason prosecutors need to provide a race-neutral justification of their jury strikes.
South Carolina, like America, has a violent history of racism and white supremacy. Mace said the state Supreme Court ruling was a “great decision” that resulted in a “sea change.”
“It was not a difficult argument to make,” Mace said. “I came out of it with a little paper certificate from the ACLU, and Greg got a promotion to assistant United States attorney.”
Harris actually went on to serve in South Carolina as a federal prosecutor. He is also the former chairman of the South Carolina Ethics Commission and “has been involved in a number of high-profile cases and clients,” including serving as an expert witness for former Gov. Nikki Haley.
Mace said that Harris is a “pretty competent lawyer.” He was less generous to former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon.
“Charlie, as attorney general, all he did was push to keep the Confederate flag flying over the state Capitol dome and to keep women out of The Citadel military college,” Mace said. “I’d bring Rudy Giuliani back before I’d employ Charlie Condon as my attorney.”
Adding that Harris is “probably very, very conservative,” but he’d consider hiring Harris if he were in serious criminal trouble.
“But I’m a white guy,” he added.