PRESS RELEASE—-NAACP Legal Defense Fund Wins New Trial in Death Penalty
After 23 years on Texas' death row, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational
Fund, Inc. (LDF) client Mariano Rosales was granted a new trial on Friday,
December 12, 2008. The United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas vacated Mr. Rosales' capital conviction and death
sentence because his trial prosecutors improperly excluded African
American and Latino prospective jurors because of their race in violation
of Batson v. Kentucky. LDF represents Mr. Rosales along with the Texas
Defender Service and the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom,
"No criminal conviction – and certainly no death sentence – that is
achieved through the intentional exclusion of African Americans and other
minorities can be allowed to stand," said John Payton, LDF
Director-Counsel and President. "Allowing discrimination to infect the
criminal justice system flouts the right to equal protection under law and
a fair trial."
In finding that Mr. Rosales' conviction and death sentence were
unconstitutional, the Federal Court pointed to the substantial evidence of
discrimination marshaled by LDF, including:
— the documented history of intentional exclusion of prospective jurors
of color in Harris County (Houston), Texas;
— that Mr. Rosales' trial prosecutors had been previously accused of
discriminating against minority jurors;
— that the prosecutors excluded a disproportionate number of minority
— that one trial prosecutor tracked the race of the minority (but not
white) prospective jurors; and
— that one prosecutor admitted to having reservations about seating
minority jurors in a case involving a minority defendant.
Christina Swarns, Director of LDF's Criminal Justice Project, noted that
"by acknowledging, and rectifying, the racial discrimination in Mr.
Rosales' case, the Federal Court protects not only Mr. Rosales but also
the integrity of the criminal justice system, and the rights of qualified
African-American and Latino citizens to serve on juries."
Mr. Rosales, whose conviction arose from murders occurring in the context
of a domestic dispute, will not be retried until after the conclusion of
any and all appeals by the State of Texas.
[source: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund]