Tag: Timothy Foster

U.S Supreme Court Rules Georgia Prosecutors Violated Constitution’s “Equal Protection” Clause by Rejecting Black Jurors in Murder Case

SCOTUS building (photo via wikipedia.com)
SCOTUS building (photo via wikipedia.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a 7-1 decision issued today, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Foster v. Chapman, No. 14-8349, that Butts County, Georgia prosecutors violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution by rejecting two prospective African-American jurors because of their race in the capital murder trial of  Timothy Foster, an African-American man who was convicted of capital murder in 1987 by an all-white jury.

Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion, which was joined by five of his colleagues, cited several pieces of evidence from the prosecutors’ files that supported the Court’s conclusion, including the first five names of a “Definite NO” list of six prospective jurors containing the only five African-Americans in the jury pool; multiple documents that identified the African-American prospective jurors by their race; and notes with “N” for “no” appearing next to the names of all the African-American members of the jury pool.

The Court also found that the race-neutral reasons the prosecutors offered for rejecting two of the African-American prospective jurors did not withstand scrutiny because (1) the prosecutors offered shifting rationales at different stages of the proceedings and (2) the reasons offered for excluding the African-American jurors did not result in the prosecutors rejecting white prospective jurors who had the same characteristics that led to the dismissal of the African-American jurors. The Court dismissed one of the prosecutors’ rationales as “[n]onsense.”

“The systematic exclusion of African-Americans from juries, particularly in serious criminal and capital cases, is a problem that we continue to see today,” stated Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “The Lawyers’ Committee is pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling which affirms the longstanding, fundamental constitutional principle that prospective jurors cannot be rejected because of their race. The evidence in this case was overwhelming that prosecutors were determined to try Mr. Foster, an African-American man, before an all-white jury.  All defendants are entitled to a fair trial and excluding prospective jurors based on their race taints the process because it means that defendants are not tried by a jury inclusive of their peers.”

The Supreme Court’s decision reversed the Georgia Supreme Court and sent the case back to the Georgia Supreme Court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. Though he did not join in Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion, Judge Alito concurred in the judgment.  Justice Thomas dissented.

U.S. Supreme Court to Examine Racial Bias in Jury-Selection Case

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U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. (MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES)

The United States Supreme Court will be looking into racial prejudice in jury selection Monday, with the justices considering a case of a black teenager who was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Georgia, The Guardian reports.

According to the report, lawyers bringing forth the appeal on behalf of Timothy Foster, who admitted to participating in the murder of a 79-year-old white woman in 1987, say that he was sentenced to death because jurors, when recommending capital punishment, did not fairly consider evidence that he was intellectually disabled, The Guardian notes.

The prosecution has long insisted that race had nothing to do with the fact that five black individuals were excluded from the jury in the trial held in Rome, Ga. However, notes found almost two decades after Foster’s sentencing indicate that all the potential black jurors had a “B” marked next to their names by the prosecution, which had recommended the death penalty in order to “deter other people out there in the projects.”

“This is a pervasive problem,” the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s litigation director, Christina Swarns, told The Guardian. “It hasn’t gone away. This is not a problem that is limited to the Deep South.”

The Guardian notes that one black woman, Marilyn Garrett, was ruled out for the jury because she was too close in age to the defendant. Garrett was 34, while Foster was 19 at the time. Another black juror was ruled out for being a member of the Church of Christ, which prosecutors said was anti-death penalty, even though the prosecution itself had notes showing that the church had left such judgments up to members.

If the Supreme Court decides that the reasons for dismissing black jurors were not justified or credible, the case could have a huge impact on the U.S. judicial system, including a legal procedure referred to as the “Batson test,” which requires prosecutors to show nonracial reasons for eliminating a juror if a racial pattern can be found in the pre-emptory strikes.

“The criminal-justice system is the part of society least affected by the civil rights movement: Ninety-five percent of the prosecutors in this country are white,” Stephen Bright, Foster’s lawyer, told The Guardian. “When I go ’round the South [a lot has changed] in terms of who is on the school board, who is on the legislature … [but] I go to the courthouse, it’s just like 1940.”

Read more at The Guardian

article by Breanna Edwards via theroot.com