Despite the prosecutor's announced concern about Brooks and his busy schedule at school, prospective white jurors who were facing significantly more acute scheduling problems were not subject to the same questioning, Alito said.
In a dissent, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said that the evaluation of a prosecutor's motives in assembling a jury is a credibility judgment that best belongs to the trial judge who is present and can witness events as they unfold. Appeals court judges should be reluctant to second-guess those judgments years later.
Justice Thomas said there is no evidence that the trial judge committed clear error. In addition, he said the majority justices should not have relied on a comparison between the treatment of black prospective jurors and white prospective jurors because that comparison was not presented as an argument until the case reached the US Supreme Court.
"We have no business overturning a conviction, years after the fact and after extensive intervening litigation, based on arguments not presented to the courts below," Thomas wrote in the dissent.
The case, Snyder v. Louisiana, was being closely watched to see if the high court might use it as an opportunity to show how judges should go about properly policing the issue of racial bias in jury selection.
Details of the case
The prosecutor in the case, Mr. Williams, compared the Snyder case both before and during the trial to the O.J. Simpson case. The retired football star was accused of stalking and killing his estranged wife and a male companion with a knife. Simpson's acquittal in 1995 triggered starkly different reactions among African-Americans and whites. Many African-Americans celebrated the Simpson acquittal, while many whites believed Simpson got away with murder.