The Supreme Court reversed the 30-year-old capital murder conviction of Timothy Foster on Monday, finding that prosecutors in Georgia engaged in blatant racial discrimination in striking every black person from the jury. The state trial and appellate courts upheld the prosecution’s contention that race played no role in its jury selection.
Sadly, the evidence against the prosecutors in the Foster case was a fluke: The prosecution files contained the proverbial “smoking gun.” But in thousands of other criminal trials throughout the country, prosecutors are able to hide deliberate racial discrimination under the cover of legitimate race-neutral reasons—and prosecutors almost always get away with it.
The lone dissenter in Foster, Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote what can generously be described as a perverse, embarrassing, and just plain stupid opinion. That dissent is an embarrassment and a disgrace, but the majority opinion itself does little to combat the actual problem of prosecutors regularly violating the Constitution to get rid of unwanted black jurors. Until that problem is fixed by the court or the legislature, miscarriages of justice like what occurred in Foster will continue to take place.
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