Judge allegedly asked why 'Aunt Jemima' was put on the jury, spurring his reassignment

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A Pittsburgh judge has been reassigned following allegations that he asked a prosecutor why he allowed “Aunt Jemima” on a jury in a criminal case.

Judge Mark Tranquilli of Allegheny County allegedly made his comments in chambers two weeks ago after the acquittal of a drug suspect, report the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and CBS Pittsburgh.

Tranquilli was said to be upset at the acquittal and allegedly asked why the prosecutor put “Aunt Jemima” on the jury when he could have used one of his remaining peremptory strikes to remove her.

The juror was black and wore a head wrap.

Assistant District Attorney Ted Dutkowski and defense lawyer Joe Otte were both present, and both filed written complaints. CBS Pittsburgh obtained a copy of Dutkowski’s complaint, and the Post-Gazette obtained Otte’s.

Dutkowski’s complaint said Tranquilli crossed his arms and scowled, and said the juror looked like that when she sat down. “You know darn well that when she goes home to her baby daddy, he’s probably slinging heroin, too,” the judge allegedly said.

Otte said the judge indicated the defendant was acquitted partly because of the woman’s presumed bias in favor of heroin dealers.

A court recorder was not in chambers to create a formal record of the conversation, the Post-Gazette points out.

Dutkowski gave his statement to the presiding judge, who reassigned Tranquilli and forwarded the complaint to the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania.

Otte filed his complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board.

Tranquilli was initially reassigned to summary appeals. On Thursday the judge was reassigned to administrative duties only, according to the Post-Gazettte.

Tranquilli, a former homicide prosecutor, was elected in 2013.

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