March 6, 2017

Supreme Court rules jury racism can upend verdict

USAToday - Racism in jury deliberations is so insidious that verdicts can be thrown out even following convictions, a divided Supreme Court ruled Monday.

A majority of justices said a Colorado man accused of sexual battery may deserve a new trial because a juror made discriminatory comments about Mexicans such as him during private deliberations. The comments were revealed by fellow jurors only after the verdict was in.

"Racial bias implicates unique historical, constitutional, and institutional concerns," Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the court's four liberal justices, wrote. "An effort to address the most grave and serious statements of racial bias is not an effort to perfect the jury but to ensure that our legal system remains capable of coming ever closer to the promise of equal treatment under the law that is so central to a functioning democracy."

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