Monday, June 13, 2005

The Supreme Court Messes With Texas

Texas has executed over 1/3 of the 900 persons who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Race has often been a factor in Texas' death penalty decisions. Statistics show that of the people executed in Texas, 88 percent were executed for the murder of a white victim. Yet approximately 58 percent of murder victims in Texas are from ethnic minorities.

The Supreme Court today overturned a death penalty conviction. In doing so, they cited the longstanding practice of Dallas prosecutors to try and keep blacks off of juries. Even as late as the 1980s, the office had training manuals advising prosecutors to remove blacks and Jews from death penalty cases because those groups would be more sympathetic to the defendant.

Clarence Thomas wrote the dissent in this case.

Death Row Conviction Overturned Over Race

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a black death row inmate who said Texas prosecutors unfairly stacked his jury with whites, issuing a harsh rebuke to the state that executes more people than any other.

The 6-3 ruling Monday ordered a new trial for Thomas Miller-El, who challenged his conviction for the 1985 murder of a 25-year-old Dallas motel clerk. It was the second time justices reviewed the case after a lower court refused to reconsider Miller-El's claims


"At least two of the jury shuffles conducted by the state make no sense except as efforts to delay consideration of black jury panelists," Souter said, adding that it "blinks reality" to deny jurors were struck because they were black.

Link to story


Blogger lemming said...

Once served jury duty - the lawyers took off everyone who hadn't dressed up and left on the women in dresses and men in polo shirts.

Thus all of the pool who were college students or graduates served and everyone else didn't.

Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant had completed High School.

The irony was lost on none of us.

June 13, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

I've selected at least twenty jury pools and it's one of the most difficult things to do. I know that I made the mistake that you mentioned once though. I had two young street tough kids who were nearly victims of a shooting (the shooter missed). One of my victims testified that they "had laughed about the incident several times". The jury found the guy not guilty largely upon these statements. Not a single one of my jurors could relate to my two young victims. They didn't realize that that is what people do where they come from--they laugh about brushes with death. It's just another part of life. My suburban jury pool just couldn't relate.

June 13, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

We found the defendant not guilty, funnily enough, because though we could identify with the plaintiff's claims, we couldn't find a shread of evidence to support that version of the story.

June 14, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

Well, I am a prosecutor. I tell you that it's hard in this CSI day and age to get juries to believe in the case.

June 14, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

(laughter) We liked the prosecutor. We suspected, based upon his closing argument, that he knew the case was thin and the plaintiff less than believeable.

Apparently my voting "not guilty" now means that I will be thrown off of any jury that I might now be asked to assist - sad, as I'd love to do it again.

June 15, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

Yeah, sometimes the lack of confidence in your case shows. I know it has happened to me before.

You're probably right about being excluded from criminal cases. On the other hand, if there had been a guilty vote, the defense would most likely keep you off of future juries. Your only hope is for placement on a boring civil trial.

June 16, 2005  

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