The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider a case involving discrimination against potential Black jurors, according to The Washington Post. The case involves Timothy Tyrone Foster, a Black teenager who was sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly white woman in Georgia. Court records show the prosecutor deliberately struck Black candidates from the jury.
It’s been reported that prosecutors prefer white jurors because they are more likely to vote for the death penalty. On the other hand, defense attorneys prefer Black jurors because they are more likely to vote against death penalty cases.
Foster’s attorneys from the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta are arguing the case should be retried because Prosecutor Stephen Lanier kept Blacks from the jury. Foster was convicted by an all-white jury in 1987. The case has other racial overtones. According to The Washington Post, Lanier told jurors they had to convict Foster “to deter other people out there in the projects,” which were 90 percent Black.
Although a Supreme Court ruling 30 years ago made it illegal to bar someone from a jury because of their race, prosecutors have ways of ensuring all-white juries who are more favorable to voting for convictions. Some of the Black jurors in the Foster case were excluded for questionable reasons. The Post reported Marilyn Garrett was struck from the jury because Lanier claimed she was too close to Foster’s age. Garrett was 34 and Foster was 19. Lanier accepted an all-white jury made up of eight people who were 35 and under. One of the jurors was just two years older than Foster. Court records show Lanier had marked all the potential Black jurors names with a letter B. They were also highlighted in green and put at the top of the “definite no” list.
Considering the number of people who have been freed from death row, Black jurors are rightly skeptical of the criminal justice system.
A 2014 Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed Blacks and whites have starkly differing views on justice. The poll showed only 1 in 10 Blacks believed Blacks were fairly treated by the criminal justice system. However, 6 out of 10 whites believed the police treated all races equally.