Supreme Court Reverses Conviction Based on Prosecutor's Exclusion of Blacks from Jury

At a time when the country's struggle to overcome racial divisions is deservedly making front page news, the Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana conviction after concluding that a state prosecutor deliberately excluded a black student from serving on the defendant's jury. The opinion reinforces an earlier decision that called for stronger judicial scrutiny of the bogus explanations that prosecutors often give for their decisions to remove minority group members from criminal juries.

The decision (pdf) was 7-2, with Justices Scalia and Thomas joining in an unsurprising dissent. More surprising is that Justice Alito did not join them. In fact, he wrote the majority opinion.

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    Link (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by waldenpond on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 10:43:38 AM EST
    was pertinent.  Thanks for the detail.  Are they going to re-try the case do you know?

    reversed and remanded (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Molly Bloom on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:37:47 AM EST
    It amazing (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Christopher MN Lib on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 10:44:12 AM EST
    how much contempt Clerance Thomas has for people of his own race. Of course that's nothing new for this guy. At least the Supreme Court got this decision correct.

    I don't think it's exclusive to his own race (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by dianem on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:10:50 AM EST
    He seems to have contempt for everybody. He is sort of the "Archie Bunker" of the Supreme Court, without the warmth, of course.

    Contempt For His Own Race? (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by squeaky on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:30:56 AM EST
    I have contempt for people of my supposed 'race', big deal.

    I take back some of the things (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 10:44:20 AM EST
    I said about Alito

    Don't worry he will deserve them again soon. (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by Molly Bloom on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:39:08 AM EST
    the aliens (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:05:18 AM EST
    finally took alito, and left a "pod" person in his place.

    I'm not sure this is just about race (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by dianem on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:54:36 AM EST
    It's probably legal sacrilege, but I think that lawyers get too much power to exclude juror's, period. As I understand it, they system was designed so that biased jurors could be exluded, but attorney's are using the system to exclude even fair-minded jurors who might be unsympathetic to their position. Perhaps it would be a good idea to focus less on race and more on the issue of just how far prosecutor's and defense attorney's should be able to go in loading the jury with sympathetic jurors?

    By the way, I'm wading into legal territory here, so be kind. It's obviously not my field, but I feel bad for focusing exclusively on politics on a blog dedicated to politics and the law, so I'm attempting to contribute (intelligently?).

    Also (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by dianem on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 12:19:06 PM EST
    I didn't mean to imply that this isn't about race, only that it isn't merely about race. Obviously, race should not be an issue in choosing fair jurors, and I'm glad that (most of) the Supreme Court is willing to recognize that.

    impeach scalia and thomas (none / 0) (#6)
    by pluege on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:19:54 AM EST
    scalia is do removed from modern mainstream thought on nearly every legal, moral, and ethical issue that he should be impeached. He is nothing more than a political hack propping up an extreme agenda. Thomas is a disgrace, an embarrassment, and a tragedy to have on the court. He is a thoughtless dolt that should be impeached for incompetence and denigrating  the serious nature of the SCOTUS.

    oops (none / 0) (#7)
    by pluege on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 11:21:12 AM EST
    "scalia is do removed..."should be "scalia is so removed..."

    Once again (none / 0) (#13)
    by flyerhawk on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 01:04:24 PM EST
    Clarence Thomas once again proves that he would been more at home on the Taney Court than any modern day court.

    So basically the dissent is that since the prosecution didn't overtly reject them because of race we should simply take them at their word?  

    Nervousness?  Did the prosecutor think shiftyness was a little too overt?

    is it possible that roberts gave (none / 0) (#14)
    by sancho on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 01:40:49 PM EST
    alito the task of writing the majority opinion in exchange for his vote? or is that "too political" for the court?

    It was a 7-2 decision (none / 0) (#15)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 03:38:03 PM EST
    So Alito's vote was not needed by the majority. The opinion also established no new law (although there are a couple of practice pointers in there for lawyers and judges) so, it's not as if it was any huge "honor" to get assigned the opinion.

      Read the "Brethren" and you'll be conviced it would not be too political in the right cirumstances, but I don't see it here.

    i'm not a lawyer (none / 0) (#18)
    by sancho on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 12:47:31 PM EST
    but there is some power in getting to write the opinion, right? don't you get to frame how it is applied? and doesn't roberts want scalia-thomas to be as isolated as often as possible so he and alito aren't seen as a complete block with scalia-thomas?

    i'm probably overthinking. thanks for the answer.


    exclusion (none / 0) (#16)
    by diogenes on Wed Mar 19, 2008 at 08:00:04 PM EST
    Of course, the OJ Simpson trial proves that blacks would never, ever be biased against the prosecution in a murder case if the defendant were black.

    Some blacks (none / 0) (#17)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 07:29:55 AM EST

      That fair observation does not though justify the exclusion of blacks (or other minorities), simply because they are black. If a prosecutor is concerned he can probe for actual indications of such bias and if it is revealed use that as proper grounds for a race neutral reason for a peremptory.

      Would you not agree that some whites might be biased against the prosecution in certain cases with certain parties and certain facts, but that would not justify striking someone simply because they are white.


    jury picking (none / 0) (#19)
    by diogenes on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 03:45:12 PM EST
    I never get picked for a jury because I'm a psychiatrist.  They don't ask me for any of my views or biases beyond profession.  Can a psychiatrist who is on trial sue if I was excluded from the jury?  As they say in To Kill a Mockingbird, the juror pool is far from typical and is hardly random anyway.  

    Psychiatrists (none / 0) (#20)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu Mar 20, 2008 at 04:18:47 PM EST
     are unlikely to be granted protected class status despite the jokes.

      You probably would be excluded almost always simply because if I had a case where your expertise, considered together with what I ascertained (guessed) to be the most likely way in which you would bring your expertise to bear in that case was not dangerous to my client then the other side probably would think it possibly dangerous to them and you'd make the cut only where both sides had people they more wanted rid of than you.

       But, what's wrong with that? Lawyers don't pick jurors; they pick a limited number of people who won't be jurors. Any grounds other than racial or ethnic discrimintion seem harmless to both the legal process and society as I see it.