The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today remanded the cases of death row prisoners David Wilson and Andrew Lackey, after finding that the record in each case shows that the State engaged in racially discriminatory jury selection practices.
David Wilson was tried by an all-white jury after the Houston County District Attorney used his peremptory strikes to exclude every qualified African-African potential juror from the jury. The prosecution treated Black and white jurors differently during questioning, and the record shows that Black and white jurors who gave the same answers were treated differently by the State.
The Houston County District Attorney’s office has a long history of racial discrimination in jury selection, especially in capital cases. As EJI recently reported, from 2005 to 2009, in cases where the death penalty has been imposed, prosecutors in Houston County – which is 27% Black – have used peremptory strikes to remove 80% of the African Americans qualified for jury service.
Andrew Lackey also was tried by an all-white jury, after Limestone County prosecutors removed two-thirds of the eligible African Americans from the jury panel.
Both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Lackey’s cases were remanded to the trial judge to conduct a hearing where the State will be required to explain why it excluded African Americans from jury service. As the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled, “If the State cannot provide legitimate race-neutral reasons for the use of its peremptory challenges against African-American veniremembers or if [the defendant] establishes that the State’s reasons are a sham or pretext, [he] shall be entitled to a new trial.”
Hundreds of people of color called for jury service nationwide have been illegally excluded from juries after prosecutors asserted pretextual reasons to justify their removal. EJI believes that the underrepresentation and exclusion of people of color from juries has seriously undermined the credibility and reliability of the criminal justice system, and raising claims of illegal racial discrimination in jury selection in Alabama death penalty cases, among other actions, is critical to end this practice.