Monday, June 13, 2005

Supremes Smack Texas Death Penalty System . . . Again

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a death penalty conviction from Dallas today based on the State's discriminatory jury selection process. This is the the second time they have reversed the 5th Circuit's decision in the case. Maybe this time they'll get the message. This particular case is legendary in the Dallas criminal courthouse because there was actually an extensive evidentiary hearing on the issue of the DA's office racially motivated jury selection. At the evidentiary hearing, a manual from the DA's office was introduced that flat out told prosecutors to strike blacks and Jews from juries in death penalty cases. Former prosecutors testified that they had been trained with that manual. The record showed that the ADAs prosecuting the case had done everything they could to get rid of black jurors. One of their favorite techniques was to take black panel members who had said they could impose the death penalty and go through a long, detailed, grotesque description of an execution, and then ask them again if they could still impose the death penalty. Many of the panel members then said they could not. Of course, the ADAs never went through the graphic descriptions with white jurors.

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