NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, November 22, 2015, 4:00 AM
Bronx jurors said Juror No. 7 was a racist who argued that the black defendant must be guilty because a black district attorney indicted him.
A racially charged battle among Bronx jurors ended with a chaotic mistrial and the lone white panelist claiming he was threatened with bodily harm during deliberations.
Some of the other jurors — the remainder were black, Latino and Asian — said Juror No. 7 was a racist who argued that the black defendant must be guilty because a black district attorney indicted him.
Keno Roberts, 36, was charged with killing his 3-year-old stepson, Jordan Rogers, on Oct. 20, 2011. After being held without bail for four years on Rikers Island, the jury acquitted him of murder earlier this month.
But the jury could not reach a verdict on the remaining second-degree manslaughter charge. Juror No. 7, an older white man, was the holdout. After grilling that juror, a judge determined that he was fit to continue deliberations. Still, Judge Barbara Newman was forced to declare a mistrial on Thursday.
The majority of jurors, who were black, Latino and Asian, claimed that the one lone holdout, who was white, was influenced by racism.
“The outcome we got was based on racism, not on the evidence that was presented to us,” juror Susana Valette, 33, told the Daily News.
Roberts’ defense attorney, Troy Smith, blamed the child’s mother, Shanika Rogers, who testified to being alone with the child in the hours before he was found unresponsive in her arms. The mom was never charged.
The medical examiner testified the toddler’s body was covered with fresh bruises. Jurors told The News it wasn’t clear when the fatal blow was delivered to the child’s abdomen. Neighbors testified to seeing Roberts with the children earlier that day at the mother’s Olmstead Ave. apartment.
A week of deliberations on the manslaughter charge got so heated that the holdout told the court he was physically threatened, and vowed not to continue unless a judge guaranteed his safety, court sources said.
Judge Newman held a closed-door hearing Thursday to determine if the stubborn juror was biased, but decided not to boot him. Hours later, she declared a mistrial — after stating for the record that the holdout “is not a loose cannon.”
Several members of the jury said afterward they felt the result was tainted by bias.
“It’s not based on the evidence,” said juror Tatiana Burgos, 44, a nurse practitioner who went to NYU. “It was racism. In his mind, this man was guilty until proven innocent and not the other way around.”
The holdout even said the black Bronx district attorney, Robert Johnson, would not have indicted another black man if he was not guilty, several jurors told The News.
Keno Roberts, 36, was charged with killing his 3-year-old stepson, Jordan Rogers, on Oct. 20, 2011.
“He’s like, the district attorney of the Bronx is black, and if he didn’t think he was guilty he wouldn’t have indicted him in the first place,” said Juan Pena-Cruz, 38, the jury foreman.
The holdout, a retired teacher who lives in Throggs Neck, denied that his refusal to budge was racially motivated. He did say the defendant’s associations made him suspicious.
“His only friend is a heroin dealer. And they basically explained, if you’re from the hood, you have to hang out with criminals,” said the juror, who gave only his first name, Joe. “I said, frankly, I don’t think you should endorse this guy’s character.”
Joe also claimed that he had caught several other jurors snoozing during the two-week trial.
“I’m not saying these people are bad, but the level of sophistication is very low,” he told The News, adding that it was the other jurors who injected race into the deliberations.
“From the first day, they brought up the race card,” he said.
Roberts’ mother shook the holdout juror’s hand after her son was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
“He is human,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “God has a plan.”
Roberts’ lawyer plans to seek bail for his client on Monday while he awaits a new trial on the manslaughter charge.