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Racial Bias in Death Sentence

In January 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned a Texas defendant's conviction and death sentence because of racial bias by the prosecution in jury selection. Jonathan Bruce Reed, the defendant, had been convicted of murder in 1979 during a trial at which all five of the eligible African American potential jurors were excluded by the prosecution. The prosecution used its peremptory challenges to strike prospective African American jurors and then the state accepted several Caucasian jurors. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Reed and concluded that the prosecution's alleged reasons for the removal of the prospective African American jurors were a pretext for discrimination.

Using the keywords "Reed v. Quarterman, No. 05-70046 (5th Cir. January 12, 2009)," search the Internet and read the court's decision on the Reed v. Quarterman case.

Although Jonathan Bruce Reed is Caucasian, why did the prosecution feel that African American jurors would be sympathetic to Reed?

In your opinion, should Reed be retried for his crime? Why or why not?

Reed was convicted on the testimony of three eyewitnesses (one who barely escaped death at his hands). In your opinion, should these witnesses be asked to testify again at the new trial? If yes, how reliable would their testimony be after thirty years?

In your opinion, what discrimination did Reed endure? How?

If Reed was an African American, would you feel differently about the discrimination? Why or why not?

Solution Preview

Racism is why prosecutors felt African Americans jurors would be sympathetic to Reed. The inference was made by the racist prosecution that most African American are criminals, therefore, they would somehow possess an identity with the alleged criminal.

Reed should be retried because the second victim claimed he was the person who strangled her as well as other prosecution witnesses that place him at the scene. This is not exact science in regard to eyewitness testimony, and often leads to erroneous and flawed testimony, but in this case, the ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses a scenario which examines the racial bias in the death sentence.