WASHINGTON — A 1986 Supreme Court ruling that bars prosecutors from disqualifying potential jurors based on their race applies retroactively to other pending cases, the court ruled today.
By a 6-3 vote in cases from Kentucky and Oklahoma, the court said fairness demands that its April 30 ruling apply to convicted defendants whose appeals were pending at that time.
Barry Sullivan, representing the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, estimated the decision would benefit hundreds of men and women convicted of criminal offenses. He said exclusion of blacks as jurors in cases involving black defendants is "a substantial nationwide problem."
The justices ruled for the first time that even though the April decision was a clear break with past high court precedent, it still has retroactive impact.