The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of a black death row inmate Monday, declaring that prosecutors in Georgia went against the Constitution and blocked black jurors from his trial nearly 30 years ago, USA Today reports.
Timothy Foster's 1987 case came up before the Supreme Court after a series of notes from the prosecution were obtained by defense lawyers through an open-records request. Defense noted that while jury selection was going on, prosecutors highlighted the names of black candidates, circled the word "black" on questionnaires, and even added notes such as "B#1" and "B#2." On a separate sheet labeled "Definite NO's," they put the last five black candidates in the jury pool on top, apparently ranking them in case "it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors."
The year before the jury selection, the Supreme Court had ruled that such actions were unconstitutional.
Foster was ultimately sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the murder of a 79-year-old white woman when he was a teenager.
"The focus on race in the prosecution's file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the 7-1 verdict. Only Justice Clarence Thomas, the only black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, dissented.
As USA Today notes, the reversal of the conviction clears the way for Foster to get a new trial. It could also have an impact on how jury selection is handled in the future.
Read more at The Root: “If You Think They Don’t Want You on the Jury, You May Be Right”
Read more at USA Today.