PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In 1992, public defender Lisa Middleman represented an 18-year old white teen accused of encouraging younger teens of writing racist epithets, including the n-word, on the home of an interracial couple.
“It was thirty years ago,” Middleman told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
In transcripts obtained by KDKA investigator Andy Sheehan, Middleman, now running as an Independent for District Attorney against incumbent Stephen Zappala, defended her striking or removing African Americans from that jury.
Delano: “Is that what you were doing?”
Middleman: “It was thirty years ago so I don’t remember the jurors. I don’t remember who they were, what they were about.”
The Highland Park native says back then she would judge potential jurors by their reactions to the charges when read to them.
Middleman: “There would be people that shook their heads. There would be people that would look at me like they were looking daggers through me so you knew who it was who would not be fair to your client.”
Delano: “Just on their reactions?”
Middleman: “Sometimes yes, just on their reactions.”
Delano: “On their looks?”
Middleman: “No, no.”
Delano: “Well the assistant district attorney accused you of striking because they were black.”
Delano: “And your response according to the transcripts that we have right here…”
Middleman: “Ugh. Okay.”
The transcript shows her defending striking black women because they were fat, telling the judge, “I do not like big, fat, sloppy people on my jury. If you’re that big and you’re that fat, you don’t care a lot about what you look like, and you don’t care about a lot of things.”
“It’s a sarcastic horrible thing to say, and I shouldn’t have said it,” Middleman says.
But Middleman defends her fat comments, saying she was deliberately mocking the DA’s charge of racism.
Delano: “Did you believe that at the time?”
Middleman: “No, and I don’t believe it now.”
Delano: “Then why did you say it?”
Middleman: “I was being as outrageous and over-the-top as I possibly could.”
But whatever the justification, Middleman is apologetic today.
Delano: “Are you sorry for those remarks?”
Middleman: “I’m very sorry for those remarks. It was thirty years ago, and I cannot tell you what I was thinking or why I would say it.”
“But those were horrible things to say and I shouldn’t have,” says the Independent candidate.