"Stunning new case highlights how race bias corrupts juries," is the title of Barry Scheck's commentary at Salon. His is co-Director of the Innocence Project. Here's the beginning of this must-read:
Last month, Glenn Ford, an African-American man, walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary after spending thirty years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. One of the most important contributing factors to his death sentence? Racial discrimination in the selection of his all-white jury. In a community that is almost half African-American, the prosecutor struck African-American jurors with the flimsiest of excuses.
That kind of bias not only contributes to guilty verdicts for the innocent, it tilts the playing field toward death, particularly for defendants of color.
In North Carolina, the state Supreme Court has a chance to show the country that race bias should not be allowed to corrupt our jury system. Yesterday, that court’s justices heard arguments about three African-Americans and one Lumbee Indian who are serving life without parole, thanks to a lower court ruling that the discrimination in jury selection was a significant factor in their death sentences. The State of North Carolina would like to erase those facts and send the prisoners back to death row. Now the court will decide whether to recognize or ignore the dangers of racial discrimination in jury selection.
The four prisoners in the case have uncovered a mountain of evidence of discrimination in their cases and county, including a prosecutor’s handwritten notes in one of their cases. In it, he described prospective jurors differently by race. The white “country boy” who “drank” was “ok,” in contrast to the “black wino” who was excluded. Another African-American juror was “ok” because she was from “a respectable black family.”
Related posts are in the race category index.