Lawyers for a man seeking a new trial say west Georgia prosecutors purposely and systematically excluded black prospective jurors from the trials of black men facing the death penalty four decades ago.
An all-white jury in 1977 convicted Johnny Gates of raping and murdering a white woman and sentenced him to die. He has since been resentenced to life in prison without parole.
In a court filing Monday, his lawyers describe newly disclosed prosecution trial notes from capital cases tried in Muscogee County in the late 1970s. They say those notes, combined with the consistent striking of black prospective jurors, demonstrate systematic racial discrimination in jury selection.
Prospective jurors can’t be eliminated because of their race, so Gates’ lawyers argue that he is entitled to a new trial.