Skeptical Supreme Court justices raised serious doubts yesterday about how Georgia prosecutors obtained an all-white jury in a decades-old death penalty case, reports McClatchy. While myriad sharp questions suggested a split court, the most persistent hammering came from liberal-leaning justices, who suggested prosecutors systematically and improperly excluded African-American jurors from the panel that convicted Timothy Foster of murder in 1987. Foster, who was 18 at the time of the crime, is African American. The victim, a 79-year-old widow who had just returned from choir practice, was white. The prosecutors used challenges to eliminate African Americans from the jury pool.
“All of the evidence seems to suggest a kind of singling-out,” Justice Elena Kagan told Georgia Deputy Attorney General Beth Burton. “Isn't this as clear a…violation as we're ever going to see?” Justice Stephen Breyer added that “many” of the trial prosecutor's stated reasons for challenging African-American jurors were “self-contradictory, obviously not applicable.” Justice Anthony Kennedy added flatly that the prosecutors were “wrong” and had “made a mistake.” Ninety-five potential jurors were called for Foster's trial. Ten were African American. Prosecutors used their peremptory challenges to eliminate them all, while insisting that they had numerous tactical reasons other than race. Foster’s attorney, Stephen Bright, argued that they were “determined to strike all the black prospective jurors.”