Kavanaugh Sides With SCOTUS Libs, Ovetrurns Quadruple Homicide’s Conviction

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The U.S. Supreme Court docket, confronting racial bias within the American legal justice system, on Friday threw out a black Mississippi loss of life row inmate’s conviction in his sixth trial for a 1996 quadruple homicide conviction, discovering {that a} prosecutor unlawfully blocked black potential jurors.

The court docket, in a 7-2 ruling written by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, discovered that the actions of the prosecutor violated the precise of Curtis Flowers, 49, to obtain a good trial as required by the U.S. Structure. Whereas the court docket sided with Flowers, its ruling doesn’t preclude Mississippi from placing him on trial for a seventh time.

Kavanaugh, who joined the court docket in October after being appointed by President Donald Trump, wrote that the prosecutors sought to strike black jurors by all of Flowers’ six trials. Prosecutors “engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of black and white potential jurors” at his sixth trial, Kavanaugh added.

The prosecution’s resolution in the newest trial to strike one black juror particularly “was motivated in substantial half by discriminatory intent,” Kavanaugh wrote.

The ruling was the newest of a number of lately during which the Supreme Court docket has dominated in favor of particular person legal defendants on race-related points.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, named by Trump to the court docket in 2017, and fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas dissented within the case.

In his dissenting opinion, Thomas described the court docket’s ruling as “manifestly incorrect.” Thomas famous that Flowers can nonetheless be convicted once more and that the court docket’s majority “doesn’t dispute that the proof was enough to convict Flowers or that he was tried by an neutral jury.”

Thomas, the one black member of the Supreme Court docket and one in all its most conservative justices, requested his first questions throughout an oral argument in three years when the case got here earlier than the justices in March. His questions centered on whether or not protection legal professionals for Flowers throughout his trials had excluded white potential jurors.

In U.S. trials, prosecutors and protection legal professionals can dismiss – or “strike” – a sure variety of potential jurors in the course of the jury choice course of with out stating a purpose. Some prosecutors, together with in Southern states like Mississippi, have been accused over the many years of attempting to make sure predominately white juries for trials of black defendants to assist win convictions.

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The Supreme Court docket dominated in 1986 that folks can’t be excluded from a jury due to their race, based mostly on the precise to a good trial underneath the Structure’s Sixth Modification and the 14th Modification promise of equal safety underneath the legislation. Friday’s ruling utilized that precedent and, as Kavanaugh wrote, “we break no new authorized floor.”

Flowers was interesting his 2010 conviction – in his sixth trial – on fees of murdering 4 individuals on the Tardy Furnishings retailer the place he beforehand labored within the small central Mississippi metropolis of Winona. In that trial, there have been 11 white jurors and one black juror.

His legal professionals accused long-serving Montgomery County District Legal professional Doug Evans, who’s white, of participating in a sample of eradicating black jurors that indicated an illegal discriminatory motive. Evans has given non-racial causes for hanging black potential jurors.


Kristen Clarke, president of the Legal professionals’ Committee for Civil Rights Underneath Legislation civil rights group, stated the ruling ought to “sound an alarm” for prosecutors across the nation who interact in racial discrimination throughout jury choice.

“Racial bias continues to contaminate nearly each stage of our legal justice system, together with the jury choice course of,” Clarke added.

Evans and Flowers’ lawyer couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.

In 2016, the Supreme Court docket dominated in favor of a black Georgia loss of life row inmate who additionally stated black potential jurors have been excluded by the prosecution in his case. In 2017, the court docket dominated in separate circumstances {that a} Hispanic man may problem his conviction based mostly on a juror’s racist feedback and {that a} black Texas loss of life row inmate may search to keep away from execution resulting from testimony from an professional witness at trial who stated the person was extra prone to commit future crimes due to his race.

The court docket’s conservative majority has proven much less sympathy towards efforts to handle historic racism outdoors of the context of legal trials.

Flowers was discovered responsible in his first three trials – the primary one with an all-white jury and the subsequent two with only one black juror – however these convictions have been thrown out by Mississippi’s prime court docket. A number of black jurors participated within the fourth and fifth trials, which ended with no verdict as a result of the jury each occasions failed to supply a unanimous resolution.

Prosecutors have stated Flowers was upset with the shop proprietor for firing him and withholding his paycheck to cowl the price of batteries he beforehand had broken. He was convicted of killing retailer proprietor Bertha Tardy, 59; bookkeeper Carmen Rigby, 45; supply employee Robert Golden, 42; and part-time worker Derrick Stewart, 16. All besides Golden have been white.

For a graphic on main Supreme Court docket rulings, click on https://tmsnrt.rs/2V2T0Uf

Reuters contributed to this report.

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