Honorable Judge Olu A. Stevens is a Circuit Court Judge for the 30th Judicial Circuit, which presides over Jefferson County of Kentucky.
Judge Olu sustained two motions to diversify (nearly) all-white jury panels between 2014-2015: Commonwealth v. Sellers, Commonwealth v. Hodge.
- Commonwealth v. Sellers (2014)
- Commonwealth v. Hodge (2015); 1/41 participants in the original Jury pool was African-American. After Judge Olu’s intervention, 4/12 final jurors were African-American. This panel acquitted the trial’s African-American defendant.
In each trial, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine filed motions requesting that KY Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton recuse Judge Olu from presiding. Wine maintains an argument that jury pools should not be arbitrated by judges if they are generated randomly, regardless of how well they represent a defendant’s peer demographic. The recusal motions against Judge Olu were sustained.
Immediately after the Hodge trial’s conclusion, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine filed a second motion with KY Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Minton. In it, Wine requested Judge Olu’s removal from all future criminal cases.
A social media exchange between Wine and Judge Olu caught the public’s attention in November, 2015. Judge Olu interpreted Wine’s behavior as a desire to protect and empanel all-white juries, stating this observation through status updates on Facebook. Wine felt the Judge’s statements were in violation of judicial conduct and asked that they too be taken into account with his second motion to the KY Supreme Court.
Following a wave of organized protest and direct action led by regional leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement, Wine’s motion was denied by Chief Justice Minton. Minton cites the Judicial Conduct Commission (under the KY constitution) as the sole agent capable of dismissing a sitting KY Judge.