In a March 26, 2024, op-ed published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Patricia McTier, a Georgia nurse, recounts her experience being removed from a jury pool in 1998 for what she calls a “questionable reason” related to her race. Born and raised in Appling County, Georgia, Ms. McTier grew up in the Jim Crow era and writes that she “enter[ed] adulthood during a time of great social change,” where she grew to “cherish our American system of justice and the Constitution that endows all of us with equal rights.” In September 1998, Ms. McTier was called for jury duty for the capital murder trial of Warren King, a young Black man who was facing the death penalty for the robbery and murder of a white convenience store employee.

During voir dire for Mr. King’s case, Ms. McTier was asked about her knowledge of Mr. King’s case and her views on the death penalty. She answered that she knew next to nothing about Mr. King’s case and agreed she could impose the death penalty if necessary. Days later, Ms. McTier learned she had not been selected to serve on the jury but was never told why she was not chosen. Nearly all (seven of eight) Black people in the jury pool, including Ms. McTier, were struck, while just three of 34 potential white jurors were removed.

In the years following Mr. King’s trial and conviction, Ms. McTier learned that the prosecutor on Mr. King’s case, John Johnson, had a longstanding practice of using his “peremptory strikes to discriminate against Black and female potential jurors.” She also learned DA Johnson’s explanation for removing her from the jury pool: he claimed she would have been biased against his office because he was prosecuting one of her husband’s relatives. But Ms. McTier writes that she “didn’t know anything about [the relative’s] possible criminal involvement or legal trouble” and that “nothing going on with him would have had any bearing on [her] verdict in [Mr.] King’s case.” The fact that Mr. Johnson never asked her any questions about the relative now leads Ms. McTier to believe that her race was the true reason she was excluded.

Ms. McTier writes that “it is hurtful to think that the prosecutor, who represents the state of Georgia, kept us from serving on the jury in a death penalty case because of the color of our skin,” which is in direct violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1986 ruling in Batson v. Kentucky, which held that it is unconstitutional to strike potential jurors because of their race.

Prosecutors in Georgia have a long history of racial discrimination against Black people in jury selection processes, as reported by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), which has documented how many district attorney’s offices expressly train their prosecutors on how to exclude people of color from serving on juries and avoid sanctions.  Since Mr. King’s trial, Ms. McTier has sat on other juries and has “fulfilled [her] civic duty,” yet that “does not lessen the pain of realizing [she] was kept off [Mr.] King’s jury because of her race.”

In closing, Ms. McTier writes that she is “deeply troubled” by the prospect that Mr. King faces a possible execution date despite having “a trial marked by such blatant racial discrimination.”   While she cannot know if the verdict would have been different had she sat on the jury, she does “know that justice was not served by the prosecutor’s efforts to remove Black people from the jury.” With all the information that has come to light, Ms. McTier writes that “it seems unconscionable to allow [Mr. King’s] death sentence to stand.” The United States Supreme Court is currently considering whether to accept Mr. King’s petition for certiorari, which argues he should receive a new trial.