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South Texas Prosecutor Revealed Court’s Potential Exclusion Of Black Jurors

Jimmy Emerson
Flickr Creative Commons
The Wharton County Courthouse in Wharton, Texas.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: A Wharton County prosecutor said he felt boss' pressure to strike black jurors; fish oil helps footballers’ reduce the severity of brain damage; Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz; and more.

Nathan Wood, Assistant District Attorney for Wharton County, claims he was encouraged by his boss to exclude black people from a jury. Wood spoke during a March 11 hearing following the conviction of a black woman on charged with assault, according to The Associated Press. No black jurors heard the case.

Wood told a friend in confidence that he was feeling pressure from his superior to block people from juries based on race, The AP reported. The friend relayed Woods’ concerns to a judge, prompting a hearing, so then Wood felt the need to clarify that District Attorney Ross Kurtz never directly told him to strike jurors based on race but that he encouraged it.


Houston Chronicle reporter Brian Rogers told Texas Standard:


“After the conviction, the prosecutor came forward and read a statement into the record that he had not stricken any of the blacks from the jury because they were black, but had race-neutral reasons, but that there was, in fact, an attitude at his office where he was encouraged to strike blacks from the jury.”

On Tuesday, Kurtz responded to the allegations saying he has always told his prosecutors not to take race into account when deciding which potential jurors to strike, according to the AP.


However, this ambiguous suggestion is common in courthouses, Rogers said.


“It’s sort of been a dirty secret in the courthouse that this sort of thing happens everywhere. When we started asking if this has happened here in Harris County, one former prosecutor here had said she had been advised to do it, and a former prosecutor, who is black, said no, she had not been advised to do it but, that it didn’t surprise her.”


Read more. [The Associated Press, Texas Standard]


  • Fish oil might help reduce the brain-damaging effects of football injuries. A study at TCU in 2014 had 80 Horned Frog football players taking shots of DHA — an Omega-3 fatty acid, and the players were monitored over the season. Breakthroughs’ Lauren Silverman reported: “To test, they focused on a biological indicator of brain trauma. It’s called neurofilament light. Research shows neurofilament light increases as the number of physical impacts increase. In other words, the more hits on the field, the more neurofilament light in the blood. So the question: Could DHA lower levels of neurofilament light?” The answer: Yes. Read more. [Breakthroughs]

  • U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz received yet another high-profile GOP endorsement from Jeb Bush Wednesday. Bush, who dropped out of the race in February, joins in-state leaders Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry as well as former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in backing Cruz. The Texas Tribune reported: “Like other Cruz endorsements of late, the move was as much about opposing Trump as it was about supporting the Texas senator.” Read more. [The Texas Tribune]

  • A Dallas middle school has a new name, replacing the former moniker of a Confederate general. Students at John B. Hood Middle School voted Friday to change the name to Piedmont Global Academy, taken from the street on which the building resides. Former students and community members will get to weigh-in before the final recommendation goes to the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, KXAS (NBC5) reported. According to The Dallas Morning News, “Hood, the youngest general to lead an army during the Civil War, was a decorated hero. But he fought on the side that supported slavery.” Sixty-one percent of students wanted the name changed. Read more. [KXAS, The Dallas Morning News]

  • Queen of the South, a new television shot in Dallas, will premiere on April 16 at the 10th annual Dallas International Film Fest. The crime drama, an adaptation of a hit Telemundo show, tells the story of Teresa Mendoza, who flees from Mexico to the U.S. after the murder of her drug-dealing boyfriend, and then teams up with a person from her past to take down the leader of the Cartel, according to the show’s website. The Big Screen team spoke with executive producer Matthew Penn abotuu the experience of filming it in North Texas. Listen here. [The Big Screen]

Watch the trailer: