Criminal Justice Discrimination: Foster v. Chatman

Subject: Law
Pages: 9
Words: 2219
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: College


Although the attempts to eradicate any forms of discrimination from every domain of modern life have been taken a countless number of times, the phenomenon persists in contemporary society due to its flaws. Particularly, the imperfections of the present-day justice system create loopholes for discrimination to enter its domain, as recent cases show. Particularly, the case of Foster v. Chapman points to the necessity of introducing more equality into the identified realm.

The details of the case reveal that the prosecutor was allowed to strike all of the African American judges out before the case of an African American defendant was presented. The peremptory changes were against the decision made during the Batson v. Kentucky case. As a result, the environment created by the people involved in the trial served as the breeding ground for racial biases and the following discrimination. Furthermore, the very fact that four African American judges were stricken out without adequate reasoning can be viewed as an act of discrimination.

The case in point shows quite clearly that the discrimination problem remains an integral part of American society, in general, and the U.S. justice system, in particular. Correspondingly, an impetus for improving the current situation must be created and received by the state authorities. Specifically, the case in point calls for taking immediate action as far as the supervision of the court procedures is concerned. It can be suggested that the introduction of a set of more rigid regulations as far as compliance with the legal standards should be provided to avoid similar instances of a mistrial in the future.

Introduction: The Most Controversial Case of 2016

At first glance, it might seem that the American society is mature enough to identify and address the emergent instances of racism in the contemporary environment, let alone the justice system (Reskin, 2012). Indeed, the United States has gone a long way from learning to accept the rights of Black people to create an environment, in which equality may become a possibility. However, the contemporary environment incorporates a wide array of factors that impede the promotion of equity as the foundation for building relationships between the members of society. This is quite upsetting, discrimination trickles even in the areas that affect people’s lives tremendously, such as the U.S. legal system.

A recent court case has shown that America still needs to address the discrimination problem on a statewide level. The Foster v. Chatman case that occurred in 2016 has shown that the present-day justice system remains corrupted and that racial profiling still is a part of it. According to the case details, an African American defendant was tried for murder and faced the death penalty. Four African American judges were appointed for the case; however, under the pretext of the peremptory challenges, the judges were subsequently dismissed despite the Batson claim that Foster made in the process.

In other words, the Batson challenge was considered as the factor that could not be precluded by res judicata, i.e., a case that can no longer be appealed for. The Batson case in its turn stated that “a defendant may establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination in selection of the petit jury solely on evidence concerning the prosecutor’s exercise of peremptory challenges at the defendant’s trial” (Batson v. Kentucky 476 U.S. 79)

Even though the instance of striking four Black judges out of the case can be viewed as purposeful discrimination, the issue has not been raised. Therefore, further analysis of the issue is required. To be more exact, the fact of discrimination needs to be stated, and the measures that will permit reducing the threat thereof in the contemporary justice system in the future will have to be determined.

The issue of discrimination in the modern justice system of the United States, in general, and one of its agents, in particular (i.e., the U.S. Supreme Court) was addressed by considering a case that has been closed lately. Specifically, a 2016 issue regarding the court discrimination problems (Foster v. Chatman) was viewed as the primary source of information.

The case records were retrieved online. To obtain the required information, the Google Scholar database was included in the list of search areas. The reasons for using Google Scholar as the primary source of information are quite basic; despite its availability to the general audience, the identified resource contains an array of materials that are determined as credible and trustworthy (e.g., academic journals, court proceedings, etc.). In the identified scenario, a court case was retrieved from the Google Scholar database. The case was located after the following search terms were used: “discrimination us criminal justice system.” After the search had been narrowed down to the 2016 cases, the search engine returned 1060 results, among which the Foster v. Chatman case was found.

Analysis and Data Findings: What the Case Has to Offer

According to the case details, Timothy Foster was sentenced to the death penalty after murdering Bruce Chatman, a prison warden, in Georgia. The case details specify that the corpse of Queen Madge White, a 79-year-old widow, was found with severe injuries and the signs of a sexual assault, and strangling, in her house, which was burglarized (Foster v. Chatman No. 14-8349, 2015). Foster was charged with first-degree murder and a robbery. As the case details specify, before carrying out the proceedings, the State “exercised peremptory strikes against all four black prospective jurors qualified to serve” (Foster v. Chatman No. 14-8349, 2015, p. 1).

Afterward, Foster pressed the Barton claim for a retrial under the pretext of the judges having been dismissed from the case unfairly. The judge, however, rejected the claim and considered Foster guilty, therefore, sentencing him to death. Even though the verdict had already been passed, Foster renewed a claim so that a retrial could be arranged. Even though the court denied the motion again, Foster submitted a writ of habeas corpus so that the case could be reconsidered. Finally, the documents were admitted into consideration. However, after the consideration of the evidence, the court denied the motion again claiming that there was no arguable merit in the claim submitted by the accused (Cook & Akegria, 2012).

Even though the evidence of Foster’s guilt provided during the proceedings can be considered overwhelming and pointing to the fact that he was responsible for the murder, the fact that the four judges were dismissed without any legal justification for it makes one question the fairness of the U.S. justice system, in general, and the supposedly unbiased position of the court toward certain racial and ethnic groups, in particular.

Furthermore, the outcome of the case serves as the foundation for promoting change in the context of the American legal system so that the rights of every party in court could be acknowledged. Specifically, the case of Foster v. Chatman demonstrates that there is a necessity to reconsider the image of a criminal that the state officials have so that the specific traits of a certain ethnicity, race, nationality, or culture could not be attributed to it.

Discussion: The Racism Issue and the Means of Addressing It

As stressed above, there is a plethora of controversy about the case. On the one hand, the defendant was guilty and deserved the punishment that he received. Indeed, according to the case details, the evidence is quite plentiful, and it points directly to the fact that Foster is the murderer. Therefore, the sentence passed by the judge seems quite fair (Wasserman & Connolly, 2015).

On the other hand, one must admit that the environment, in which the trial occurred, can be deemed as biased due to the removal of every African American judge. Although all pieces of evidence available point to the fact that Foster must be the one that committed the murder, it would be unfair to sentence the accused to the death penalty without exhausting every possibility of proving his innocence (Hurwitz, Peffley, & Mondak, 2015).

In light of the ideas mentioned above, the effects of the judges’ removal from the trial need to be considered. Seeing that the lack of objectivity and racial biases were the primary sources of concern for the people involved and the key point of the defendant’s appeal, it begs the question of whether the admission of the judges to the trial would have tipped the scale toward a different outcome (Lima‐Nunes, Pereira, & Correia, 2013).

Arguably, the fact that the outcome of the court proceedings would have been the same disregarding whether the judges would have been present or not can be deemed as valid in the identified situation since it implies that the unbiased atmosphere should only be provided only in specific cases. In reality, however, the existing set of democratic principles requires that an unbiased and prejudice-free environment should be provided to any citizen of the United States, no matter what they are accused of. It is imperative to make sure that every person appearing in court should be provided with equal opportunities for defense (Beaver et al., 2013).

In the case in point, the issue of culture clash could be viewed as the primary source of conflict. Although Foster was unlikely to be proven not guilty even in case the African American jury has been admitted to the proceedings, the very fact that the defendant was not offered a chance at being represented in a bias-free environment shows that the contemporary U.S. legal system is very flawed. Put differently, the Foster v. Chatman case could be interpreted as an instance of racism in the Supreme Court.

When considering the means of managing the problem, one should bring up the fact that there is a strong need in representing each side of the case in a fair and unprejudiced manner. In the case in point, the issue of discrimination concerns primarily depriving the accused of the right to have his case considered by the representatives of his culture Indeed, dismissing one or two judges that were of the same cultural and ethnic descent that the accused was could have been determined as a coincidence that was not worth paying special attention to. However, the fact that every single black judge was removed from the case points to the conclusion that the attempt at creating a biased environment did take place (Colquitt et al., 2013).

Conclusion and Implications: What Needs to Be Addressed

Although the case of Foster v. Chatman can hardly be seen as a prime example of an African American falling victim to the crooked justice system, and that the defendant had to be guilty of the crime, the fact that there is an ongoing discriminatory issue in the modern U.S. justice system can hardly be denied. Both public and private legal agencies suffer from the lack of objectivity in their actions when it comes to meeting the needs of the people belonging to different ethnic and racial communities; as a result, the outcomes of the trial can be viewed as biased and, therefore, not trustworthy.

Furthermore, the lack of clarity and the increasing discrimination levels in the U.S. criminal justice agencies affects the very fabric of the social justice system, shaping people’s concept of a criminal in a very specific manner. As a result of the given tendencies, the threat of attributing specific racial or ethnic characteristics to the portrait of a criminal may become tangible to the point where the race will serve as a pretext for accusing people of crimes that they did not commit.

It could be argued that the problem described above has become dominant in modern society would be quite a stretch. As explained above, the case of Foster v. Chatman represents a rather ambiguous situation, in which the defendant was guilty, yet, based on the principles of democracy and equal rights, he had to be offered an opportunity to prove his innocence. However, a closer look at the contemporary legal system and the agencies operating in it will reveal that the problem of prejudices and biased attitudes toward people of other ethnicities and nationalities, i.e., ethnic and racial minorities, has been in existence for years (Frank et al., 2014). Therefore, there is an urgent need to take action so that the subject matter could be managed in a manner as efficient and expeditious as possible (Gabbidon et al., 2014).

The case described above also shows quite clearly that the issue of employment in the contemporary justice system needs to be considered closed. Employing people that have a very rigid set of values and are not prone to corruption deserves to be viewed as the issue of the highest priority for the U.S. justice system at present. Furthermore, the problem of the lack of diversity in the American criminal justice agencies should be discussed and managed.

The significance of the subject matter can be supported by the necessity to represent the case of each party appropriately in the court, eliminating the slightest chances for a culture clash or a misconception during the proceeding. Because the life of a person often hinges on the opinion that the judge will have of the defendant (e.g., when considering the possibility of a retrial), it is imperative to make sure that everyone has equal chances of being properly represented in court.

Reference List

Batson v. Kentucky 476 U.S. 79 (2009).

Beaver, K. M., DeLisi, M., Wright, J. P., Boutwell, B. P., Barnes, J. C., & Vaughn, M. G. (2013). No evidence of racial discrimination in criminal justice processing: Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Personality and Individual Differences, 65(1), 29-34. Web.

Colquitt, J. A., Scott, B. A., Rodell, J. B., Long, D. M., Zapata, C. P., & Conlon, D. E. (2013). Justice at the millennium, a decade later: A meta-analytic test of social exchange and affect-based perspectives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 199 –236. Web.

Cook, B. L., & Akegria, M. (2012). Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Substance Abuse Treatment: The Role of Criminal History and Socioeconomic Status. Psychiatric Services, 62(11), 1273–1281. Web.

Foster v. Chatman No. 14-8349. (2015).

Frank, J. W., Wang, E. A., Nunez-Smith, M., Lee, H., & Comfort, M. (2014). Discrimination based on criminal record and healthcare utilization among men recently released from prison: a descriptive study. Health and Justice, 2(1), 6-13.

Gabbidon, S. L., Jordan, K. L., Penn, S. B., & Higgins, G. E. (2014). Black supporters of the no-discrimination thesis in criminal justice: A portrait of an understudied segment of the Black community. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 25(5), 637-652. Web.

Reskin, B. (2012). The race discrimination system. Annual Review of Sociology, 38(1), 17-35. Web.

Hurwitz, J., Peffley, M., & Mondak, J. (2015). Linked fate and outgroup perceptions: blacks, Latinos, and the U.S. criminal justice system. Political Research Quarterly, 68(3), 505-530. Web.

Lima‐Nunes, A., Pereira, C., & Correia, I. (2013). Restricting the scope of justice to justify discrimination: The role played by justice perceptions in discrimination against immigrants. European Journal of Social Psychology, 43(7), 627–636. Web.

Wasserman, L. M., & Connolly, J. P. (2015). United States Supreme Court justices’ voting in systemic racial discrimination cases in education. The Urban Lawyer, 47(1), 1-82.