1967 January 23

Georgia’s Jury System Declared Discriminatory

 

In Whitus v. Georgia, decided on this day, the Supreme Court held that Georgia’s system for selecting juries was racially discriminatory. Phil Whitus, an African-American in Georgia, had been convicted of murder. Although African-Americans were 45 percent of the county in which Whitus was tried, they were almost completely excluded from jury duty. Tax returns, which were used to select jurors, had the letter “c” (for “colored”) next to their names to facilitate exclusion.

The case was brought and argued by Charles Morgan, a white attorney in Birmingham, Alabama who was forced to leave when racists threatened him and his family after he spoke out against the infamous September 15, 1963 bombing of an African American church that killed four little girls. He immediately became a noted civil rights attorney for the ACLU.

Learn more about the history of race discrimination in jury duty: http://www.eji.org/files/EJI%20Race%20and%20Jury%20Report.pdf

Read about the history of juries: Dennis Hale, The Jury in America: Triumph and Decline (2016)

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