(New York, NY) – On March 5, 2009 the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) filed a friend of the court brief in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s claim that his trial prosecutor intentionally excluded prospective jurors of color from service on his capital trial because of their race. LDF’s brief objected to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s restrictive interpretation of Batson v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court decision declaring racial discrimination in the exercise of peremptory challenges unconstitutional. Today the United States Supreme Court announced that it will not review Mr. Abu-Jamal’s claim.
“It is unfortunate that the Court has refused to hear Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case because it means that real questions regarding the integrity of his jury selection proceedings will go unanswered,” said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel. “It was our hope that the Supreme Court would use this case to reiterate to trial and appellate courts the importance of promptly investigating all credible evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection.”
In its brief, LDF argued that the Third Circuit’s decision will make it harder for defendants to prove discrimination because under its analysis the only cases warranting court intervention are those presenting statistical evidence of race-based exclusion. LDF explained that numerical data is not the only credible form of evidence of discrimination and that under the Third Circuit’s standard, many cases — like Mr. Abu-Jamal’s — presenting significant evidence of racial bias will be ignored.