11 March 2022 :
Timothy Foster Resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Foster, now 54, Black, had conviction and death sentence overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 because Georgia prosecutors discriminatorily struck Black jurors from serving in his case.
On March 4, 2022, Foster pleaded guilty in a Rome, Georgia courtroom and accepted the life sentence after prosecutors agreed to drop the death penalty in his case. The plea deal ends a 35-year legal odyssey that began in 1987 when Foster, who is Black, was sentenced to death at age 18 by an all-white jury after prosecutors used their peremptory challenges to remove every Black prospective juror from the jury pool. On May 23, 2016 (see HoC), by a vote of 7-1, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Foster’s death sentence and conviction in Foster v. Chatman because Foster’s prosecutors had improperly exercised their discretionary jury strikes on the basis of race to exclude Black jurors in his trial. The justices ruled that Foster was entitled to a new trial, and in 2018, Georgia announced it would seek another death sentence for Foster. In a 2019 pre-trial hearing, Harold Chambers, who was in 1987 an assistant district attorney for Floyd County, Georgia, testified that he heard District Attorney Steve Lanier and his lead investigator Clayton Lundy arguing about Foster’s jury strikes while jury selection was under way. “Mr. Lundy told Lanier they had to put a black person on the jury,” Chambers testified. “Lanier kept saying ‘no, I’m not going to do it.’” Eventually, Lundy told Lanier that “if you don’t put a black juror on this jury this is going to come back to haunt you.” Assistant District Attorney Douglas Pullen also represented the State in Foster’s trial. Pullen prosecuted five capital trials involving black defendants between 1975 and 1979 while he was a prosecutor in Columbus, Georgia. In those cases, he struck all 27 black prospective jurors and successfully empaneled five all-white juries.
Veteran death-penalty and civil-rights lawyer Stephen B. Bright, the former President of the Southern Center for Human Rights, successfully argued Foster’s case and 2 other jury discrimination cases in the U.S. Supreme.