Saturday, August 22, 2015

SCOTUS Case Focuses on Exclusion of Blacks from Juries

The U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming term includes a case that “could reshape the way juries are selected,” according to Adam Liptak in The New York Times. In Foster v. Chatman, writes Liptak, “prosecutors excluded every black prospective juror in a death penalty case against a black defendant.” Peremptory challenges, Liptak explains, “generally allow lawyers to dismiss potential jurors without offering an explanation,” so long as they are based on a “neutral justification.” Race is not a valid justification, yet a number of studies find peremptory challenges are used disproportionately on black jurors, contributing to their under-representation on juries. Liptak cites a new study of Louisiana’s Caddo Parish that finds “prosecutors used peremptory challenges three times as often to strike black potential jurors as others during the last decade.” “There clearly aren’t five votes on the Supreme Court to abolish peremptory challenges,” writes Greenhouse in an opinion piece for the Times. “But just as clearly, their continued existence threatens to erode even further the public’s confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system, already stretched to near the breaking point.”

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