Supreme Court Overturns Georgia Death Penalty Verdict

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court called out Georgia prosecutors,who they believe used racially discriminatory practices in excluding two black potential jurors from serving in a death row trial in which the defendant, Timothy Foster, was black. He is a mentally ill man who confessed to the rape and murder of an elderly woman on August 27, 1986.In 1991 his case was sent back down to trial court for review on the issue of Foster’s mental retardation. Executing such an individual is considered cruel and unusual punishment.  

The defendant, who was represented by death penalty attorney Steven Bright, had argued that excluding African-Americans from serving violated the Constitution.

Both the prosecution and defense are allowed to strike jurors for any reason they chose other than race. These are called peremptory strikes.  After Foster’s initial trial resulted in a death penalty verdict, his legal team found a proverbial smoking gun – notes from the prosecution that plainly spelled out a scheme to exclud certain jurors based upon race.

Considering all of the circumstantial evidence that bears upon the issue of racial animosity, we are left with the firm conviction that the strikes of Garrett and Hood were motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent, Chief John Roberts wrote.  

It is important that we do not lightly brush aside the States legitimate interest in structuring their systems of postconviction review in a way that militates against repetitive litigation and endless delay, wrote Justice Samuel Alito. T

Translation; Alito agrees that the initial verdict was tainted by the manufactured all-white jury but warns against meddling in affairs of states.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter in the 7-1 decision. He wrote in part; In few other circumstances could I imagine the Court spilling so much ink over a factbound claim arising from a state postconviction proceeding,  adding that he wouldve deferred to the state courts that initially considered Fosters claims and rejected them.”

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