What Snyder did not say about race

Slate's blog on legal issues.
March 19 2008 4:42 PM

What Snyder did not say about race

by Diane Marie Amann

Today the issue of race divided conservatives in America.

Advertisement

In Snyder v. Louisiana , the U.S. Supreme Court reversed defendant's capital conviction for murder of his estranged wife on the ground that the exclusion of a single potential juror -- an African-American student teacher -- violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  The 7-2 judgment is remarkable.  That's not only because the majority included 3 persons typically identified with the Court's conservative wing: Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., the author; Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.; and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.  Also remarkable is the brevity of the opinion.  Attorneys who have litigated Batson motions, as I have, no doubt will remark on the quick certainty with which the Court concluded that there had been a sufficient showing that the state acted "in substantial part by discriminatory intent" (pp. 12-13) simply by comparing the treatment of the student teacher with that of 2 white veniremen.

The Court left unsaid what well may be a prime source of that quick certainty: Snyder had come to be known as the O.J. revenge case , a case in which the prosecution struck not 1 but all potential jurors of African-American heritage.  It was a case in which the prosecution alluded in his penalty-phase closing to the then-recent acquittal of O.J. Simpson on charges of murdering his ex-wife, and suggested to jurors that they should not let the defendant before them "get away with" it.  All 3 of the members of Louisiana's highest court who dissented from affirmance of the conviction cited this overall context -- as 1 put it, "this injection of racial issues, and the fact that the prejudicial arguments were made to an all-white jury" (942 So.2d 484, 501) -- as evidence that exclusions of potential jurors were racially motivated.

The U.S. Supreme Court is to be commended for what it did in Snyder .  But on this day when America ponders Sen. Barack Obama's profound unmasking of the issue of race , it seems proper to question the decision of the Court to leave so much unsaid.

(prior Convictions posts on Obama's speech here and here

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 3:33 PM Killing With Kindness My in-laws want to throw me a get-well-from-cancer bash. There’s no way I can go.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.