All White Jury

Posted in Library of Congress, Race, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on May 23, 2016







The British story had an inflammatory headline: US supreme court voids Georgia man’s death sentence over racial bias on jury “The US supreme court on Monday delivered a stinging rebuke to the southern state of Georgia for having concocted an all-white jury to send a black man to death row, ruling that prosecutors intentionally skewed the process by striking out all prospective black jurors in an act of blatant racial discrimination.” Here is the SCOTUS ruling.

A Rome GA newspaper had a story on the case, Race is key to Timothy Tyrone Foster appeal before U.S. Supreme Court. “Queen White lived by herself in Rome. She’d retired after teaching over 30 years and had been a fourth-grade teacher at Johnson Elementary School. By all accounts she was loved by her friends, former co-workers and students. (SCOTUS notes “Timothy Tyrone Foster, an eighteen-year-old African-American, was charged in 1986 with killing Queen Madge White, an elderly white woman, in Rome, Georgia.”)
On Aug. 27, 1986, at approximately 8:30 p.m. a friend took White to choir practice and brought her back to her Highland Circle home near the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds.White talked to her sister on the telephone around 9 p.m. Her sister stopped by early the next morning, discovered White’s house had been ransacked and found her body lying on the floor of her bedroom.According to court records, she was covered up to her chin by a blanket, and her face was covered in talcum powder. Her jaw was broken, and she had a severe gash on the top of her head. Before she had been strangled to death, White had been molested with a salad-dressing bottle.
Police had suspects, and Foster — who lived nearby — was one of them. But they had no evidence linking him to the crime. Nearly a month later Foster was arrested after threatening his live-in companion on Green & Gold Boulevard. She responded to his threats by turning him in. White’s possessions were recovered from their home and from Foster’s two sisters. Foster confessed to the killing shortly after his arrest.
The community was outraged over the brutal circumstances of the murder, and several lawyers refused to represent Foster. “Obviously (Foster) was an African-American and (White) was a beloved member of our community,” (Mr. Foster’s lawyer Bob) Finnell said. “She was a lovely person.”

Apparently, Mr. Foster had a tough life. There was some dispute about whether he was mentally ill, or “retarded.” “A defense psychiatrist testified that Foster was so intoxicated from the ingestion of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine that he did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime.”

“Part of the Foster’s defense against the death penalty was to show the dire circumstances of his life — an environmental defense — essentially “look at where this kid came from,” Finnell said. His lawyers spoke with Foster’s father and asked him to take the stand to talk about Foster’s life. He said he wouldn’t do it. “He told me ‘We smoke our dope, we laugh and I can always make another kid,’” Finnell said. “You wonder how could somebody say that about his child. It was chilling.”

In death penalty cases, jury selection issues frequently come up in appeals. These have a way of being “inside baseball,” and can cause brain damage to casual observers. In Mr. Foster’s case, apparently four Black people were struck from the jury. The Georgia courts ruled that the reasons given for striking the black jurors were valid. SCOTUS disagrees.

In today’s ruling, much is made of a note the prosecutors used. In this note, the race of prospective jurors was noted. The Georgia court ruled: “4. The trial court did not err by denying Foster’s post-trial motion to review in camera the state’s jury-selection notes. An attorney’s work product is generally non-discoverable. A defendant’s right to exculpatory evidence under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83 (83 SC 1194, 10 LE2d 215) (1963), is not involved here, and non-exculpatory information in an attorney’s work product does not become discoverable simply because the opposing attorneys might find it strategically useful.” Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.







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