Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed an amicus brief in Broadnax v. Lumpkin supporting Mr. Broadnax’s request that the U.S. Supreme Court review a Fifth Circuit decision that would prevent federal courts in that circuit presiding over habeas corpus proceedings from considering newly-discovered evidence of racial discrimination against Black jurors during the underlying state criminal trial.
“Longstanding precedent makes clear that racially discriminatory peremptory challenges violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said LDF Senior Counsel Michaele N. Turnage Young. “Denying habeas petitioners an opportunity to challenge jury discrimination impedes the rights of both Black jurors and the accused. When prosecutors withhold key evidence of discriminatory peremptory challenges, they undermine the deliberative process that is a cornerstone of our democracy.”
Mr. Broadnax, a Black man, was convicted by a nearly all-white jury after prosecutors attempted to remove every single Black prospective juror during jury selection. Although Mr. Broadnax alleged that the prosecutors had engaged in racial discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution, it wasn’t until Mr. Broadnax exhausted his state court appeals that the prosecutors disclosed their jury selection notes, including a spreadsheet wherein they identified all prospective jurors by race and bolded the names of all Black prospective jurors.
“Jury discrimination remains a widespread problem, and our justice system is not served when judges turn a blind eye to strong evidence of racial discrimination,” said LDF Assistant Counsel Santino Coleman. “Not only does discriminatorily striking Black jurors violate the rights of Black Americans to enjoy full citizenship and deprive juries of important perspectives — which are crucial to an accurate decision — but it also makes a fair trial impossible. We hope the Court will agree that these constitutional violations should not be shielded from judicial review in habeas proceedings.”
A state prisoner may file a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the lawfulness of his imprisonment once he has exhausted his state court appeals, but the federal court presiding over the habeas proceeding generally may not consider evidence that was not presented to the state courts.
LDF’s amicus brief argues that the law should not be interpreted to prevent a federal court presiding over habeas corpus proceedings from considering newly discovered evidence of racially discriminatory jury selection, given that racial discrimination in jury selection violates the constitutional rights of Black jurors and the accused and undermines the legitimacy of our criminal justice system.
Read LDF’s brief in Broadnax v. Lumpkin here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.