The Supreme Court ruled, 7-1, Monday that Georgia prosecutors violated the Constitution when they struck every black prospective juror in a death-penalty case against a black man. Justice Clarence Thomas provided the sole dissent in the case, Foster v. Chatman.
Timothy T. Foster, now 48, was sentenced to death for killing a white woman when he was 18. In notes that came to light decades later, Foster’s lawyers discovered that prosecutors had marked the names of black prospective jurors and struck all of them. An all-white jury imposed the death sentence.
Stephen B. Bright served as a lawyer for Foster. Bright, president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, delivered the law school’s commencement address a week ago. (See earlier post.)
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Georgia prosecutors had violated Batson v. Kentucky, a 1986 decision in which race discrimination in jury selection was found unconstitutional.
“The focus on race in the prosecution’s file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury,” Roberts wrote.