In a 7-1 opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts the Supreme Court held in Foster v. Chatman that the prosecutor’s decision to exercise preemptory strikes against all four prospective black jurors was racially motivated in violation of Batson v. Kentucky (1986). Five previous lower court rulings on this issue disagreed.    

In 1987 Timothy Tyrone Foster, who is black, was sentenced to death for murdering, sexually assaulting, and burglarizing an elderly white woman. The jury was all-white; the prosecutor peremptorily struck all four prospective black jurors. Prosecutors may strike a number of jurors for any unstated reason except because of race and sex, the Supreme Court has held.

In an 8-1 decision in Kansas v. Carr, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling overturning a jury’s death sentence for the Carr brothers and Sidney Gleason in an unrelated murder. Reginald and Jonathan Carr were convicted of killing four people in the “Wichita Massacre”; one intended victim survived because her hair clip deflected the bullet.  


In Hurst v. Florida the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme is unconstitutional because it allows the judge, instead of requiring the jury, to impose the death sentence.

In 2000 in Apprendi v. New Jersey the Court held that any factual determination that exposes a defendant to a punishment greater than that authorized by a jury’s guilty verdict must be determined by the jury. In Ring v. Arizona (2002) the Court held that Arizona’s capital sentencing scheme violated Apprendi because it allowed the judge to find facts necessary to impose the death sentence.

Florida’s scheme worked similar to Arizona’s. A jury verdict for first-degree murder would result in life in prison without parole unless a judge finds facts supporting a death sentence. But in Florida, unlike Arizona, the jury attends the sentencing evidentiary hearing and renders an “advisory verdict.” The jury does not have to specify any factual basis for its recommendation but the judge must give it “great weight.”

Stateline Midwest ~ January 2013

Rep. Kelly Cassidy doesn’t have to go far from her office in Springfield to understand the deep division over gun control and gun owner rights in Illinois.

Her suite mate inside the state Capitol is not only a fellow legislator, but a fellow member of the House Democratic caucus. She represents a part of Chicago, he a part of downstate Illinois.

They respect one another and can find agreement on many issues, but not when it comes to what to do about the state’s gun laws.

“We live in two different worlds,” she says.

Suggested State Legislation: This SSL draft was originally based on legislation proposed by the National Institute of Justice. The bill outlines protocols law enforcement can adopt to handle missing person cases, identify human remains, and provide timely information to families of missing persons about the progress of their family members’ cases.

Suggested State Legislation: This Act requires a law enforcement agency that receives a report of a missing person to take certain steps to locate the missing person. It also requires a coroner having custody of unidentified human remains take certain steps to attempt to identify the remains.