In an unpleasant echo of Georgia’s racist past, prosecutors in Columbus systematically excluded black people from the jury pools in seven death penalty trials of black defendants in the 1970s, according to a court motion filed Monday.
Prosecutors made handwritten notes describing prospective African-American jurors as “slow,” “ignorant,” “con man” and “fat,” the filing said. In addition, it said, they marked black people on jury lists as either “B” or “N” and ranked them as the least desirable people to empanel.
“Every person accused of a criminal offense has the right to a fair trial that’s free of race discrimination,” said Patrick Mulvaney, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights and a member of the legal team that filed Monday’s action.
Three of the people tried in those cases were later executed. In five of the trials, 27 of 27 prospective black jurors were excluded, and all-white juries heard the cases.
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