One of the attorneys on former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial team previously used racial stereotypes to kick Black citizens off a jury, including saying one of them “shucked and jived” in court, HuffPost has learned.
The attorney, Greg Harris, is one of four South Carolina attorneys who make up the “core” of Trump’s impeachment team. Harris confirmed his hiring to The Associated Press on Thursday. Harris will defend a former president who regularly appealed to racists and inspired a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob that included a significant contingent of outright white supremacists.
Back in 1989, the South Carolina Supreme Court found that Harris had used racial stereotypes to strike two Black jurors during a DUI trial while he served as an assistant solicitor in South Carolina’s 5th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruling doesn’t explicitly name Harris, but HuffPost confirmed he is the prosecutor in question. Philip Mace, the attorney for the Black female defendant in the DUI case, told HuffPost that over the course of two trials, Harris used nine out of 10 of his strikes against Black potential jurors.
“When I challenged him on it, Greg said he didn’t have a racist or [discriminatory] bone in his body. I remember that,” Mace said.
Harris did not respond to an email or a message left at his law firm. Trump’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the case, Harris struck a 43-year-old Black juror he claimed walked slow, talked low, and was somewhat aged. In another, Harris told the trial judge he struck another potential juror because he was unemployed and “seemed disinterested” during jury selection. But he also added in a racial stereotype.
“I watched him as he walked from the jury panel to the microphone and I have noted that he ― he shucked and jived is what I had. That’s just my analysis of the way he walked up here,” Harris told the court.
The trial judge initially found that Harris’ use of a racial stereotype did not indicate a pattern of racial discrimination and that Harris had articulated racially neutral reasons for striking jurors.
The South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed.
While unemployment had been held up as a race-neutral explanation to strike a juror, as had demeanor in many jurisdictions, the South Carolina Supreme Court called Harris’ use of a racial stereotype “troublesome” and evidence of intentional discrimination.
“The trial court failed to inquire into or comment on the prosecutor’s explanation that the juror was struck because he ‘shucked and jived.’ The use of this racial stereotype is evidence of the prosecutor’s subjective intent to discriminate,” the court ruled in 1989.
The South Carolina decision came three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky in 1986 that jury selection procedures that “purposefully exclude black persons from juries undermine public confidence in the fairness of our system of justice.” The Supreme Court said that prosecutors needed to present a race-neutral explanation of their jury strikes if defendants make an equal protection claim based on discriminatory use of peremptory challenges, which are the limited number of objections that attorneys can make about proposed jurors without needing to give a reason.
Mace said the state Supreme Court ruling was a “great decision” that resulted in a “sea change” in South Carolina, which, like America, has a violent history of racism and white supremacy.
“It was not a difficult argument to make,” Mace said. “I came out of it with a little paper certificate from the ACLU, and Greg got a promotion to assistant United States attorney.”
Indeed, Harris went on to work as a federal prosecutor in South Carolina. The 59-year-old is the former chairman of the South Carolina Ethics Commission, and “has been involved in a number of high profile cases and clients” including working as an expert witness for former Gov. Nikki Haley, The State reported.
Mace said that Harris is a “pretty competent lawyer.” He was less kind to former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon, who was reportedly approached about joining Trump’s team but declined.
“Charlie, as attorney general, all he did was push to keep the Confederate flag flying over the [state Capitol] dome and to keep women out of The Citadel [military college],” Mace said. “I’d bring Rudy [Giuliani] back before I’d employ Charlie Condon as my attorney.” (Condon did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.)
Mace said Harris is “probably very, very conservative,” but nevertheless said Harris might be a lawyer he’d consider hiring if he were in serious criminal trouble.
“But I’m a white guy,” he added.