Looking into jury selection and rules
STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Last week, the U.S Supreme Court overturned death row inmate Curtis Flowers’ murder conviction.
The high court ruled that the prosecutor had unfairly excluded African-Americans from the jury.
They used an earlier ruling to guide that decision and it’s called the Batson Rule and it’s been around since the late 1980s.
Batson comes into play when a pattern of racial bias is believed to be involved in jury selection.
This was the sixth time for the Flowers’ case to go to trial and it’s likely not the last.
What is now known as “The Batson Rule” comes from the Supreme Court case Batson v. Kentucky in 1986.
It means lawyers can’t get rid of potential jurors based solely on their race and must give a valid reason for excluding someone.
“During our history, we’ve had some times where probably some people used race as a means to try to prevent diversity in juries and so the Supreme Court has basically stepped in and said that race is not an appropriate consideration when determining who should be on a jury,” says 16th District District Attorney Scott Colom.
Montgomery County District Attorney Doug Evan’s methods for choosing and striking jurors were at the center of an Appeal filed by lawyers for convicted murderer Curtis Flowers.
The U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Batson Rule applied in Flowers’ sixth trial.
A majority ruled that the jury did not reflect the makeup of the community.
“As you know, there has been a lot of talk in the media recently about if you are caught and found to have struck jurors because of their race, then the conviction gets reversed and you have to start all over and so that’s the punishment that happens.”
“You want the jury to represent the community number one, and number two, you want there to be a fair trial for people from different backgrounds. People who have different views and different standings in the community and different opinions on what should and should not be right and sometimes, that’s important to your case,” said Defense Attorney Jeff Hosford.
Hosford said race shouldn’t play a role when it comes to selecting jurors.
“Now, does that mean that it should be an all white jury? An all black jury? No, obviously and you should take that into account any time of anything. You have to have the input of all the people in the community and everything that occurs in that community should involve all of the people.”
Hosford said what a good lawyer wants is 12 individuals who will listen to the facts, and will make a fair decision based on those facts.
“You look for certain things and and certain life things affect people differently. Obviously, if somebody works in law-enforcement they are going to have more of a view that’s pro law-enforcement, than somebody that does not, you know, somebody that’s had a family member arrested may have a lesser view of facts that’s presented by police officers and obviously, each side in a defense situation is looking at those and trying to make that decision based on what they believe is the best for that case.”
Doug Evans is still the District Attorney in the 5th Judicial District.
He has not publicly indicated whether he will call for a new trial.