Local and State Courts aren’t supposed to allow the striking of black juries to achieve an all white jury, which when the defendant is black, mean almost certainly a conviction – regardless of the evidence pointing otherwise. Some courts around the country still believe the can get away with this.
Uncle Tommie Clarence, seeing the possibility of a black man receiving justice …Was the Court’s lone dissent.
The Supreme Court gave a black death-row prisoner new life Monday by ruling that prosecutors unconstitutionally barred all potential black jurors from his trial nearly 30 years ago.
The 7-1 verdict, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, reversed Georgia courts that had refused to consider claims of racial discrimination against Timothy Foster for the murder of an elderly white woman. The ruling is likely to fuel contentions from death penalty opponents that capital punishment is racially discriminatory.
What brought Foster’s case back to court after three decades was a series of prosecution notes obtained by defense lawyers through an open-records request. While jurors were being picked, prosecutors had highlighted the names of African Americans, circled the word “black” on questionnaires, and added notations such as “B#1” and “B#2.” On a sheet labeled “definite NO’s,” they put the last five blacks in the jury pool on top and ranked them in case “it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors.”
This happened just a year after the Supreme Court had declared such actions unconstitutional. Civil rights groups say discriminatory practices in jury selection have survived for 30 years despite the Supreme Court’s 1986 ruling in Batson v. Kentucky.
“The focus on race in the prosecution’s file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury,” Roberts wrote. He said prosecutors’ other purported reasons for striking two of the blacks from the jury pool were belied by their acceptance of white jurors with the same characteristics.
“Such evidence is compelling,” Roberts wrote. “But that is not all. There are also the shifting explanations, the misrepresentations of the record, and the persistent focus on race in the prosecution’s file.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s lone African American member, cast the lone dissent. “Foster’s new evidence does not justify this court’s reassessment of who was telling the truth nearly three decades removed from voir dire,” he said.
The controversial case took the court nearly seven months to decide after oral argument in November. Roberts’ opinion for himself and Justices Anthony Kennedy,Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan ran 25 pages. Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito, who concurred in the ruling, wrote another 25 pages each to express their views.