Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Death sentence from all-white jury thrown out

Published:Tuesday | May 24, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Timothy Tyrone Foster


The Supreme Court ruled decisively in favour of a death-row inmate in Georgia yesterday, chastising state prosecutors for improperly keeping African-Americans off the jury that convicted him of killing a white woman.

The justices ruled 7-1 in favour of death row inmate Timothy Tyrone Foster in underscoring the importance of rules they laid out in 1986 to prevent racial discrimination in the selection of juries.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that Georgia "prosecutors were motivated in substantial part by race" when they struck African-Americans from the jury pool.

But the court did nothing to limit peremptory strikes, lawyers' ability to reject potential jurors without offering any reason. The late Thurgood Marshall once said that racial discrimination would persist in jury selection unless peremptory strikes were curtailed.

The outcome probably will enable Foster to win a new trial, 29 years after he was sentenced to death.