In response to the circulation of a 1996 article circulated by my opponent (attached below):
“I’m so sorry and upset that remarks I made have hurt others. The content of the rhetoric is obviously untrue and shameful. There is no excuse for using this outrageous language, even satirically. My comments fed into fatphobia and anti-blackness and there is no place for that type of sentiment anywhere. In the 27 years since, I have learned to be more measured and professional in my legal arguments, and more mindful of the effects that my words have on others. Unfortunately, 27 years later, the underlying inequities that I was pointing out still remain, and I remain committed to continuing the fight against them.” - Lisa Middleman
In 1992, Lisa Middleman made satirical comments that were intended to convey the illegitimacy of a retaliatory accusation.
In context, Lisa Middleman’s statements were mockery of the unkind, hurtful, and nonsensical excuses that assistant district attorneys would give during a Batson challenge.
Instead of letting Zappala drag us down into talking about sarcasm from 1992, we need to address the racially discriminatory effects of his policies today in 2019.
Lisa Middleman is committed to transparency, and below is a detailed accounting of the case and the backstory to her satirical comments:
In the early 1990s, Lisa Middleman was assigned the case of “W. Scott MacIntyre, a Bethel Park teen-ager[sic] charged with offering $20 and free cigarettes to three teens to spray racial epithets on the home of a bi-racial couple, Almon and Wendy Burke” (Post Gazette Jan Ackerman). Almon Burke was an Assistant United States Attorney.
According to the reporting, Lisa “used four of her five peremtory challenges — or free strikes given to both sides — to exclude four [black jurors]. A jury with one black member was sworn in…”
From the beginning of Lisa’s career, she has exposed and fought against assistant district attorneys who used their peremptory strikes in a discriminatory fashion to remove jurors in violation of Batson v. Kentucky. In response, they would manufacture weak excuses for striking jurors transparently because of their race.
In the 1992 MacIntyre case, after the jury had been sworn-in — and thus, could not be removed — the assistant district attorney in the case launched a retaliatory accusation against Lisa Middleman.
She used that opportunity, when she knew the jury could not be removed and the challenge would be rejected, to sarcastically mock the excuses that assistant district attorneys would routinely use whenever she accused them of a Batson violation (striking a juror because of their race). Her statements were deliberately provocative and made in the judge’s chambers (not in the courtroom). The statements that Lisa said in 1992 do not reflect her feelings, then or now. In context, her statements were mockery of the unkind, hurtful, and nonsensical excuses that assistant district attorneys would give during a Batson challenge.
District Attorney Stephen Zappala, who as far as I know has never tried a case in his life and has never selected a jury in his life (or at least the past 21 years), is circulating Lisa’s comments from 1992 to distract from an issue that still exists. Juries are still not racially representative in Allegheny County.
In early 2001, Lisa and another attorney at the Public Defender’s Office hired Dr. John Karns, a sociologist and statistician from the University of Pittsburgh to provide data for her belief that black people were not represented in jury pools. She made a questionnaire and it was distributed for months. Despite Dr. Karn’s testimony at subsequent hearings that blacks were underrepresented, they received no relief. Some of her efforts are outlined in the defendant’s brief in an appeal to the Third Circuit, Commonwealth v. Joseph Howell, where she is quoted from the trial:
“As Mr. Howell’s counsel put it when she renewed the jury challenge mid-jury-selection:
I object to our panel. I think it’s a disgrace that you have an African-American kid who’s charged with killing a white person who sits with his all-white jury.
I think he’s at a disadvantage because he doesn’t see any peers in the courtroom. He’s got a white lawyer. He’s got a white prosecutor. He’s got a white judge. And he’s got a parade of white people in to prosecute him for killing a white guy. He’s got to feel like he’s in Alabama in the 1930s. (JA205)
Counsel explained that “the effect of excluding any large and identifiable segment of the community is to remove from the jury room qualities of human nature and varieties of human experience, the range of which is unknown and perhaps unknowable.” (JA227)”
In another example of many, as a result of Lisa’s objection to the racial makeup of the jury pool in a 2015 death penalty case, the prosecution was forced to withdraw their Notice of Intention to Seek the Death Penalty.
Although it was 27 years ago, we’re committed to answering any and all questions people may have about the 1992 case. If Mr. Zappala is interested in discussing it further, Lisa Middleman is fully prepared to debate him about her 32-year record as a defense attorney, the District Attorney’s office’s policies, and his failure to address continuing racial inequities in our criminal justice system.
The 1996 article is presented below and includes offensive language, specifically based on weight and appearance.