EJI Challenges Racial Bias in Jury Selection in Alabama Death Penalty Case


On Monday, October 20, 2008, EJI Director Bryan Stevenson will argue to a panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta that Alabama death row prisoner Earl McGahee deserves a new trial because prosecutors eliminated jurors at his trial on the basis of race.

Mr. McGahee, who is African American, was tried by an all-white jury in a county where the African American population was over 55%. The Dallas County District Attorney excluded every Black person from jury service at Mr. McGahee’s capital trial. The prosecutor admitted in court that he removed a juror based on his race — he said he did not want the juror to be the only Black person on the jury.

The District Attorney also said that over one-third of the Black jurors were removed because of their alleged “low intelligence.” Many of the Black prospective jurors were excluded from the jury for reasons that were equally applicable to whites who did serve on Mr. McGahee’s jury.

The United States Supreme Court, in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), ruled that it is illegal and unconstitutional to remove a person from a jury on the basis of his or her race. EJI will argue that the federal court should grant Mr. McGahee a new trial based on the prosecutor’s racial discrimination in jury selection.