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Supreme Court rules jury bias in Texas

June 13, 2005 at 1:35 PM

WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- A Texas death row inmate who accused prosecutors of keeping African-Americans off his jury has won a new trial in a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Thomas Joe Miller-El was convicted of killing a Holiday Inn clerk in Dallas during a Nov. 16, 1985, armed robbery by a jury of nine whites, one Hispanic, one Filipino and one black. Ten of 11 potential African-American jurors were dismissed using peremptory challenges during jury selection before testimony began.

Miller-El's lawyers argued the jury selection process had been affected by racism. They produced manuals on jury selection in criminal cases that instructed prosecutors in the Dallas District Attorney's Office not to take Jews, blacks, Mexicans or a member of any other minority on a jury.

Writing for the majority, Justice David Souter said the rejection of potential African-American jurors was not "happenstance." Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the dissent.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court had ruled the practices of prosecutors were justified.

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