Justice Clarence Thomas’s Solitary Voice

In an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the Supreme Court overturned a 30-year-old murder conviction, ruling that racial discrimination infected the selection of the all-white Georgia jury that found a black man guilty of a white woman’s murder. The vote was 7 to 1. The dissenter was Justice Thomas. His vote, along with the contorted 15-page opinion that explained it, was one of the most bizarre performances I have witnessed in decades spent observing the Supreme Court.

.. I almost think Justice Thomas revels in his chosen role as the anti-Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights hero whose seat he took on Oct. 23, 1991.

.. It was standard operating procedure for prosecutors to use peremptory challenges to prevent African-Americans from serving as jurors in trials of black defendants. The Batson decision held that when the defense made a plausible claim that a peremptory challenge was racially motivated, the prosecution had to offer “a race-neutral basis for striking the juror in question.” The trial judge was then to decide whether the prosecution’s explanation held up or whether it was a pretext.

.. For example, the prosecutor said he struck 34-year-old Marilyn Garrett because the “state was looking for older jurors that would not easily identify with the defendant,” who was 19. Yet there were eight white jurors under the age of 36 whom the prosecution didn’t strike; one who ended up serving was 21. The prosecutor also said he struck Ms. Garrett because she was divorced, while not striking three white potential jurors who were divorced.