11:29, June 21 71 0 abajournal.com

2019-06-21 11:29:05
Kavanaugh opinion overturns conviction of black defendant for racial bias in jury selection

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Developing: A black Mississippi inmate faces a seventh trial after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Friday that a prosecutors had displayed racial bias in jury selection.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion finding a violation of Batson v. Kencuky, the 1986 decision barring the exclusion of jurors based on race. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented. SCOTUSblog, the Washington Post and APM Reports have early coverage.

The Supreme Court decision reverses the conviction of Curtis Flowers, who was convicted of a 1996 quadruple murder at a furniture store. A prosecutor used peremptory challenges to exclude 41 out of 42 potential black jurors in Flowers’ first six trials.

Flowers’ convictions were overturned three times, twice for prosecutorial misconduct unrelated to jury selection. Two other trials ended in hung juries. In the sixth trial, the prosecutor accepted the first qualified black juror and struck five others. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the conviction.

Kavanaugh said the exclusion of all but one black juror, in the latest trial and in all six trials, partly accounted for the reversal of Flowers’ conviction. He cited two other factors that also figured into the Supreme Court’s decision.

First, the prosecutor used a peremptory challenge to strike at least one black prospective juror at the sixth trial who was similarly situated to prospective white jurors who were not eliminated.

Second, the prosecutor in the sixth trial “engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of black and white prospective jurors,” apparently to find pretextual reasons to strike the black prospective jurors, Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh said the Supreme Court wasn’t breaking new ground in the case. “We simply enforce and reinforce Batson by applying it to the extraordinary facts of this case,” he wrote.

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