A man who has been on death row for 30 years for the murder of an elderly woman has been given the opportunity for a trial do-over after it was determined that the courts misinterpreted current laws to bar any black jurors from sitting on his trial.
The Supreme Court determined in a 7-1 ruling that the treatment of Timothy Foster’s case was discriminatory and did not properly create a “jury of [his] peers.”
The case was re-opened after an open-records request was made for the prosecution’s notes which made it clear that they singled out potential black jurors, writing “No” and labeling them “black.”
Just a year before Foster’s case, the Supreme Court had ruled that such discriminatory jury selection was unconstitutional in the ruling Batson v. Kentucky.
Civil rights groups have said that despite the ruling, discrimination in the legal justice system is rampant, lending credence to the idea that the death penalty should be outlawed.
In Foster’s case, one of the prosecution’s stated reasons to call for the death penalty was to send a message to “deter other people out there in the projects.” The area the prosecution was referring to was 90 percent African American.
The single dissenting voice in overturning this sentence was Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.