SCOTUS Denies Black Man's Death Penalty Appeal Amid Racial Bias Claims

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The US Supreme Court denied an appeal from a Black man on death row who accused one of the jurors in his case of having racial bias.

The 6-3 ruling came after the Court's conservative majority voted against Kristopher Love's appeal. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer dissented their colleague's decision.

"When racial bias infects a jury in a capital case, it deprives a defendant of his right to an impartial tribunal in a life-or-death context," Sotomayor wrote. The majority who voted against Love's appeal did not offer a reason for their decision.

In 2015, Love was hired by Brenda Delgado to kill her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend, Dr. Kendra Hatcher. Love fatally shot Hatcher in her car and robbed her and was convicted of capital murder in 2018 and sentenced to death.

Court records from the trial obtained by CNN indicate that during jury selection, a white potential juror, Zachary Niesman, said he relied on "statistics" to inform his beliefs about certain ethnic groups' tendency to commit violent crimes but denied harboring bias against certain racial and ethnic groups.

When both sides further questioned Niesman further, the potential juror said he saw the data in crime reports on the news. The defense pushed back against allowing Niesman to serve, but the judge ultimately allowed him to be seated.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals argued that there were two additional opportunities for the juror to be struck and that Love did not adequately show that he was harmed under state law.

Sotomayor disagreed and said the Texas Court's decision was "plainly erroneous."

"Over time, we have endeavored to cleanse our jury system of racial bias," she wrote, adding that the Texas court should have taken the time to review Love's constitutional claim.

"The task of reviewing the record to determine whether a juror was fair and impartial is challenging, but it must be undertaken, especially when a person's life is on the line."

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