The Supreme Court decided in a 7 – 2 vote yesterday to overturn the conviction of a Black man tried in Jefferson County Louisiana, on the grounds that potential Black jurors were dismissed based on their race.
This case of racial discrimination in the jury selection in Louisiana highlights the very problem with an all white jury in the Michael Bell trial. All white juries may be appealed to on the basis of racial bias, as happened in this case; where such a tactic that has no place in the law, is not likely to succeed when a member of the racial minority is on the jury. Then, you actually have to argue the facts of the case.
At the very least jury's should not be gerryrigged to exclude certain races. It's illegal and violates democracy and justice.
Antonin Scalia and his lapdog Clarence Thomas are the only two justices to vote against overturning Snyder’s conviction.
Supreme Court overturns death penalty in Louisiana case
By James Oliphant | Washington Bureau
March 20, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the guilty verdict and death sentence of a Louisiana man convicted of hacking his wife's lover to death, concluding that an African-American juror was unfairly excluded from the panel. The court ordered that the defendant, Allen Snyder, get a new trial.
In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court said the state trial judge erred when he allowed prosecutors to strike an African-American college student from the jury. Prosecutors said at the time that they thought the student worried too much about missing school to be an effective juror, but the court ruled that this justification was a pretext, noting that the murder trial lasted only two days.
Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University in New York, said that the decision highlights a growing interest within the court in the fairness of the death penalty. "This has been an unusual court in that it has been looking at a lot of death penalty [appeals]," she said.
The justices also are currently considering whether the lethal injection method used to execute prisoners in more than 30 states is unconstitutional. "It's a sign the court is acknowledging the problems with the death penalty in this country," Denno said.
Invoking O.J. Simpson
Jefferson Parish, La., where the trial took place, has a long history of controversy over the dismissal of black jurors. On appeal, lawyers for the defendant claimed that the prosecutor in the case eliminated all of the potential African-American jurors in preparation for inflaming the jury's racial passions. Several times the prosecutor compared the case to O.J. Simpson's. Snyder's trial was in 1996, just after the Simpson case garnered global notoriety.
At the jury selection phase of the trial, lawyers questioned 85 potential jurors. In a parish where one in every five people was black, nine potential jurors were African-American. Four were dismissed for cause, and the prosecutor used his peremptory challenges to strike the others. Snyder was then convicted and sentenced to die.
The striking of those final five jurors formed the basis of Snyder's appeal. But because the Supreme Court had to find racial bias in only one instance, it did not address the exclusion of the other jurors. Snyder remains in prison pending his new trial.
Read the rest of the article here