U.S. SUPREME COURT Judges take case about racial bias in jury picks
A black man was found guilty of killing a baby by an all-white jury.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court debated Monday what standard should be used to show racial bias in jury selection, taking up a California case in which a black man appealed his murder conviction because prosecutors selected an all-white jury.
Jay Shawn Johnson of San Pablo, Calif., was found guilty in 1998 of killing his girlfriend's 18-month-old baby. He argued the homicide was accidental.
Prosecutors excused three potential jurors who were black, using "peremptory challenges" that allow attorneys for both sides to dismiss a certain number of jurors without giving a reason.
Johnson appealed, arguing the dismissals were unconstitutional under a 1986 Supreme Court ruling that prohibited racially discriminatory uses of peremptory challenges.
The California Supreme Court ruled against Johnson, finding he hadn't shown that "it is more likely than not" that prosecutors discriminated in selecting jurors.
Johnson's attorney, Stephen Bedrick of Oakland, Calif., told justices Monday that California's standard was too high. Under federal law, attorneys should have to justify peremptory challenges when there can be "an inference" of discrimination, Bedrick said.
"These facts indisputably present an inference of discrimination," he said.
Atorney Seth Schalit, representing California, told justices that the state's standard for peremptory challenges is appropriate.
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