LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Prosecutors want the Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice to toss a mediated agreement between Judge Olu Stevens and Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine.
The pair signed that agreement just more than a week ago after being ordered by Chief Justice John Minton to sit down and work out their differences.
Prosecutors say Judge Olu Stevens violated his mediation with a Facebook comment posted Friday, Dec.11. Monday morning, when court began, they asked the embattled Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge remove himself from a criminal case. Stevens denied the motion.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Cooke claims the new Facebook post violates the mediation agreement so, late Monday, they asked the Chief Justice to toss the agreement and reconsider removing Stevens from all criminal cases filed by their office.
The most recent comment made on Facebook is posted in a group supporting the judge and is attributed to Olu Stevens. It states:
"No doubt those who have followed know of the threat to my position as Circuit judge. I have definite thoughts about the process of removing me from my elected position as a Circuit judge and someday I will detail them. But today is not the day. Indeed I am fortunate to return to my position, but retaining my position was not my original goal. Their goal became taking my position in order to silence me. My goal was to bring attention to an important issue before the Kentucky Supreme Court. Similar to issues of concern raised about the impact of cases to be heard in the United States Supreme Court, I believe this matter threatens black and minority participation on jury panels and juries in the Commonwealth. It also threatens the disposition of every pending criminal case involving a black defendant. It is an issue of public concern. And it deserves voice.
I have granted and completed my first interviews on the subject of the racial composition of our jury panels. I speak because I believe it is the single most important issue facing our criminal justice system. I believe the concern over my method of communication was always misplaced, purposely by many who sought to distract from the message. Now the focus must properly return to the content of my words. But more importantly, it must return to the content of theirs. One must examine their written words in order to understand the magnitude of this issue and form an intelligent opinion about the subject matter. This is not about personality conflict as the mainstream media has led the public to believe. This is about a subject that is often ignored because of fear: Race- and its impact on the selection of our juries. Silence will not make the problem go away. It will only serve to worsen it."
In court Monday, prosecutors contended that statement is in violation to a an aspect of the mediated agreement that said: "The parties recognize and agree that issues concerning the parties should no longer be addressed by posts or comments on social media."
The controversy when Judge Stevens released a potential jury out of concerns over racial diversity. Tom Wine's office argued against the move.
Then, in November, Judge Stevens commented about the matter on his Facebook page. Tom Wine interpreted some of those comments as accusing him of being racist. A line accusing the Commonwealth's Attorney of wanting only all-white juries drew became a major point of contention for Tom Wine.
The mediated agreement included statements that neither side felt that the other as racist and Wine did not want only all-white juries. They also agreed that there is much work to be done when it comes to racial diversity in jury selection. The Commonwealth's Attorney also agreed to drop his motion to remove Judge Stevens from all criminal cases tried by his office.
Now Tom Wine's office has asked that the agreement be set aside. They claim Judge Stevens is in "breach" for having posted his latest comments on social media. A spokesman also said they had not officially withdrawn their motion to remove Judge Stevens from all cases and have also filed a supplemental urging the Chief Justice to reconsider their initial complaint and pull Stevens from those cases.