CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, March 24, 2008

SCOTUS Reversed Death Penalty in Case Work on by Pierce Law Students

Franklin Pierce Law Center's Frederick Millett, a third-year student from Grand Haven, MI, is celebrating this week after learning that the death penalty case he worked on as an extern this past fall at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, GA was reversed by the United States Supreme Court. On Wednesday, March 19, the Court issued an opinion, authored by Alito, reversing, the conviction in the case of Snyder v. Louisiana. Millett worked with Attorney Stephen Bright, president and founder of the SCHR, to prepare the reply brief.

According to Millett, “In 1996, as in 1939, Allen Snyder, an African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death, this time in Jefferson Parish, LA.  The prosecutor in his case struck all five potential black jurors using nearly half of his peremptory challenges to get an all-white jury. 

The prosecutor then, both in the media and to the jury during the sentencing phase, compared Snyder's case to the O.J. Simpson case, decided just a year earlier, and urged the all-white jury to not let Snyder ‘get away with it’ like O.J. did.  The jury sentenced Snyder to death and his conviction was upheld twice by the Louisiana Supreme Court.  Snyder appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that since the prosecutor peremptorily struck African-American jurors because of their race, his conviction and death sentence were unconstitutional based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  For this reason, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case and granted certiorari.”

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