Federal Court Orders Additional Review in Alabama Death Penalty Case


EJI has won relief for Vernon Madison based on a claim that the prosecutor illegally excluded African Americans from serving on Mr. Madison’s jury.

The United States Supreme Court in Batson v. Kentucky set out a three-step analysis for detecting racial discrimination during jury selection. The first step requires the defendant to produce sufficient facts and other relevant circumstances that raise an inference of purposeful discrimination.

At Mr. Madison’s trial, the prosecutor removed from the jury six of the 13 African Americans who were eligible for jury service. That the prosecutor removed nearly half of the qualified Black jurors was significant because the same prosecutor’s office was found to have engaged in racially discriminatory jury selection previsously — at Mr. Madison’s first trial and in other cases.

In addition, this is a case of a Black defendant who was accused of killing a white police officer. It was also noteworthy that the prosecutor did not ask any questions to three of the challenged African American jurors.

EJI challenged the jury selection on appeal. Initially, the trial court and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals found there was not an inference of discrimination in the case. Last week, however, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with EJI and found that Mr. Madison “present[ed] several relevant circumstances that in sum were sufficient to raise an inference of discrimination.”

The federal appeals court remanded the case to determine whether a new trial is required because of the State’s discriminatory jury selection.