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The Case for Black With a Capital B

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Matters of Race in the Courtroom

By Virginia DePina

The Supreme Court of the United States argued the case Foster v. Chatman in November 2015. Timothy Tyrone Foster, a Black man, was charged and convicted of the murder of an elderly White woman. Upon recent discovery, the prosecutor's notes in the case revealed markings indicating the race on four potential jurors who were dismissed through peremptory strikes. Foster was sentenced to death by an all white jury. 

Peremptory strikes based on race is illegal, and the Supreme Court is faced with the decision to clarify discrimination in jury selection. Were Foster's rights violated? Would his verdict have been different if any of the jurors were Black?

Harvard Law School's Clinical Professor of Law, Dehlia Umunna, explains the impact that race has in the courtroom, especially in jury selection.