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The Champion

July 2016 , Page 05 

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From the President: Foster v. Chatman, and Thoughts on the Continued Discriminatory Application of the Death Penalty

By E.G. Morris

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On May 23, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Foster v. Chatman,1 a Georgia case in which the justices considered whether the state’s “race neutral” explanations for using preemptory challenges to remove all of the African American jurors from a capital murder trial violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as interpreted in Batson v. Kentucky.2 Timothy Foster, an African American, was charged with capital murder. The jury found him guilty and assessed the death penalty.

Foster’s Batson claims were raised at trial, renewed on a motion for new trial, and unsuccessfully litigated on direct appeal. He then pursued the claims in a state habeas corpus proceeding. During the pendency of the habeas action, Foster sought, through the Georgia equivalent of a FOIA request, the files of the prosecutors who had represented the state at trial. The documents showed an organized effort to identify and exclude the African American jurors.

The evidence obta

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