The death row sentence of Timothy Tyrone Foster was overturned by the Supreme Court after they determined that Georgia prosecutors intentionally kept black jurors off the jury. Foster was 18 when he was arrested for the murder of 79-year-old white woman, Queen Madge White. Prosecutors reported that “Foster broke into White’s home. He broke her jaw, coated her face with talcum powder, sexually molested her with a salad dressing bottle, and strangled her to death, all before taking items from her home.”
Foster's girlfriend turned him in after he admitted to her that he had committed the crime. Seemed like a slam dunk. But prosecutors wanted to ensure a death sentence, so they stacked the jury. Young black man killing an old white widow in Georgia. Seems like an easy conviction So off the prosecutor went, striking every single black juror. The judge never questioned the reasons why. Until now, when the case notes were finally made public based on "Georgia's open record laws." That led to the Supreme Court and today's decision.
The Washington Post reports that SCOTUS found that the prosecutor "improperly considered race" when picking the jury. The finding was 7 to 1 with Judge Thomas, the only African American Supreme court justice, dissenting.
The evidence to support bias in the jury selection was obvious, with the names of potential black jurors marked with a large "B" and highlighted in green. All were also listed on a sheet as "Definite No's."
Judge Roberts stated:
“The focus on race in the prosecution’s file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury."
Foster is not a free man, though. He is merely facing a new trial, which may still have the same outcome.
Although this is a victory for one man, largely because the racist and stupid prosecutor chose to actually write his racism down (and highlight it, and list it). In cases where the judicial system is more subtle with their racism, it is a lot harder to prove. Most prosecutors are smart enough to fake finding another reason to "strike" a potential juror.
One step in the right direction, no matter how small, is a positive one.