Convict wins appeal based on jury’s racial makeup

Antonio Garcia-Dorantes, convicted of murder in 2001, now faces deportation

Antonio Garcia-Dorantes' mug shot from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man convicted of murder who argued a jury selection glitch prevented him from getting a fair trial will be resentenced to time served, but now he’s expected to be deported.

Antonio Garcia-Dorantes was found guilty of stabbing two men in Grand Rapids in October 2000, killing one of them. He has claimed self-defense in the case. After he was convicted of second-degree murder in September 2001 and then sentenced to between 15 and 50 years in prison, he filed several appeals that failed.

Then he filed a federal habeas corpus petition claiming his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial was violated. He based that argument on the discovery of the computer glitch that had blocked minorities from the jury selection process in Kent County during the time of his trial.

“For reasons that were never clear to me, some of the zip codes in Kent County were underrepresented by the computer program,” 17th Circuit Court Chief Judge Donald Johnston explained.

In his appeal, Garcia-Dorantes argued underrepresentation of minorities in the jury pool led to an unbalanced racial composition in his jury.

“There was no record made of the actual composition of the defendant’s jury and I frankly don’t remember whether there were minorities on it or not,” Johnston said.

Regardless, in a September 2015 ruling, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Garcia-Dorantes that his constitutional rights had been violated.

As a result, Kent County prosecutor struck a deal with Garcia-Dorantes that will resentence him to time served. However, that doesn’t mean he will simply go free in Michigan.

“We will inform the Immigration and Customs Enforcement people of the sentencing date so they’ll know to be here and they will pick him up and take him back to his native land,” Johnston said.

Garcia-Dorantes is set to be resentenced June 28.

Johnston and Kent County Chief Assisting Prosecuting Attorney Chris Becker say that the case sets a potential standard for other cases.

“Based on this decision, there may be cases down the road that we may have to retry,” Becker said.

“There are other murder cases from the same time period which now may have defendants raising the same issue,” Johnston agreed.

The malfunction affecting minorities in juries has since been fixed. However, Target 8 discovered in April 2015 that minorities are still underrepresented on juries in Kent and Kalamazoo counties. Some legal experts believe the system Michigan uses to select jurors may be to blame.

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