U.S. justices to hear Georgia inmate's race claim over jury selection

Reuters News
Posted: May 26, 2015 4:31 PM

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a black Georgia death row inmate's claim that prosecutors unlawfully avoided picking any black jurors to serve in his trial.

The court will hear the case filed by Timothy Foster, convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in 1987 for killing Queen White, a white woman.

During the jury selection process, all four members of the jury pool who were black were removed by prosecutors, who gave non-race related reasons for their decision.

Under a 1986 Supreme Court ruling, it is unlawful to take race into account when excluding potential jury members from a particular trial.

At the time, Foster's legal arguments over jury selection failed.

It was only in 2006 that his lawyers obtained access to the prosecution's jury selection notes, which showed that the race of black jury members was highlighted, indicating that there was "an explicit reliance on race," according to Foster's attorneys.

State courts denied Foster's efforts to revive his case, prompting his appeal to the high court.

Oral arguments and a ruling are due in the court's next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2016.

The case is Foster v. Chatman, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-8349.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)