Naked City

Supremes Overturn Miller-El Conviction

After considering the case for a second time, the Supremes on June 13 overturned the conviction of Texas death row inmate Thomas Miller-El, who was sentenced to die for the 1985 murder of Irving hotel clerk Douglas Walker. Dallas prosecutors engaged in race-based jury selection at Miller-El's trial, striking 91% of eligible black jurors from the pool – a "disparity unlikely to have been produced by happenstance," Justice David Souter wrote for the six-justice majority. And prosecutors engaged in so-called jury shuffling, rigging the jury pool to push black potential jurors to the back of the pack, cutting down on the possibility they would be called to duty. "The prosecution's broader patterns of practice during jury selection also support the case for discrimination," Souter wrote. "No racially neutral reason for the shuffling has ever been offered, and nothing stops the suspicion of discriminatory intent from rising to an interference."

The Supremes shot down the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for twice ignoring the High Court's order that they review, in a manner consistent with their opinion, all of the available evidence before ruling in the case. Souter wrote that "[T]he Fifth Circuit's conclusion that Miller-El failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that the state court's no-discrimination finding was wrong is as unsupportable as the 'dismissive and strained interpretation' of his evidence that this Court disapproved" the last time the justices considered the case. The court remanded the Miller-El case back to Dallas Co., where prosecutors will have to decide whether to retry the case. (To read the entire opinion, go to www.supremecourtus.gov/
opinions/04slipopinion.html
.)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Death penalty, U.S. Supreme Court, David Souter, Thomas Miller-El, race-based jury selection, jury shuffling, Dallas County District Attorney's Office

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