Twenty-five years ago, Earl Jerome McGahee was charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend.
McGahee, an African-American, was tried by an all-white jury in an Alabama county that was more than 55 percent black.
The district attorney dismissed every one of the 24 blacks who qualified to serve on the jury, including Edith Ferguson, who had worked for the Selma, Ala., Police Department for many years. The reason cited for striking Ferguson from being a juror: “low intelligence.”
Bryan Stevenson of the nonprofit group Equal Justice Initiative tells NPR’s Guy Raz that assertions about intelligence are “one of the most troubling but persistent reasons” given to dismiss potential jurors who are black. Many of those potential jurors are college graduates, Stevenson says.
Last year, McGahee was granted a new trial because of the racially discriminatory jury selection in his original case. But many defendants are not so lucky.
Study Documents ‘Widespread Discrimination’
In a new study, Stevenson’s group details “widespread discrimination” in the selection of jurors across the Deep South. (more…)
Hat Tip – NewsOne
LOS ANGELES — The upcoming trial of a white ex-transit officer charged with killing an unarmed black man in Oakland has already sparked racial tensions in the city, one of the reasons the trial was moved to Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, a jury of seven whites, four Hispanics, one East Indian — and no blacks — was selected to hear the case against former Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle, according to KTVU-TV.
Mehserle is accused of murdering Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009 in a shooting that was captured on video by several bystanders. He has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys have said he mistakenly pulled his gun rather than a Taser in an attempt to subdue Grant.
Prosecutors contend he intended to shoot Grant and he used his weapon because officers were losing control of the situation.
The trial could be the most racially polarizing of its kind in California since four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King in 1992. (more…)
The staff of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has looked closely at jury selection procedures in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. We uncovered shocking evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection in every state. We identified counties where prosecutors have excluded nearly 80% of African Americans qualified for jury service. We discovered majority-black counties where capital defendants nonetheless were tried by all-white juries. We found evidence that some prosecutors employed by state and local governments actually have been trained to exclude people on the basis of race and instructed on how to conceal their racial bias. In many cases, people of color not only have been illegally excluded but also denigrated and insulted with pretextual reasons intended to conceal racial bias.
In Mississippi, Alvin Robinson, an African-American man, was on trial for murder after he’d allegedly had an altercation with and killed a white man following a frightful traffic incident. During the jury selection for his trial, an African-American woman showed up dutifully for service, but was turned away because she had “no ties to the community,” though she’d worked for the same local company for six years. One by one, the African-Americans who had been summoned were dismissed from service.
In a silent protest to being stricken from the jury for what she suspected to be a thinly-veiled attempt to maintain the racial homogeny of the all-white jury, this woman returned to the courthouse each day, only to watch Mr. Robinson be found guilty for murder (even though three of the jurors slept through portions of the trial) and sentenced to prison. (more…)