Black Juror: Prosecutors Treated Me "Like I Was a Criminal"

Mother Jones

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Until I contacted her in Rome, Georgia, on Tuesday, Marilyn Garrett had no idea she had become a minor celebrity in legal circles. Nearly 30 years ago, she briefly served in the jury pool during the capital trial of Timothy Foster, a 19-year-old black man charged with murdering an elderly white woman. The prosecutors dismissed her, along with every other African American called to serve, leaving an all-white jury that convicted Foster and sentenced him to death. On Monday, unbeknownst to her, the 63-year-old played a starring role in US Supreme Court arguments over racial discrimination in jury selection.

The rejection has stuck with Garrett all these years in large part because she felt like the prosecutors treated her “like I was a criminal.” Their interrogation left her in tears, she told me, even though she was just there to do her civic duty. Now she’s gotten a little payback, courtesy of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who channeled Garrett’s outrage in the chamber of the nation’s highest court.

Timothy Foster’s lawyers have long argued that the trial prosecutors illegally removed blacks from his jury pool, but the Georgia courts rejected every one of those arguments. The Supreme Court is now hearing the case thanks to a treasure trove of documents his lawyers discovered in 2006. A public records request unearthed prosecutors’ notes that make a mockery of a jury-selection process that was supposed to ensure racial fairness. (You can read about some of the sordid history here.)

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Black Juror: Prosecutors Treated Me "Like I Was a Criminal"

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