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Supreme Court declines to take case of Black man convicted of killing wife and children by all-White jury

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 26: The U.S. Supreme Court building on the day it was reported that Associate Justice Stephen Breyer would soon retire on January 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. Appointed by President Bill Clinton, Breyer has been on the court since 1994. His retirement creates an opportunity for President Joe Biden, who has promised to nominate a Black woman for his first pick to the highest court in the country. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to take up the case of a Black man on death row for killing his estranged wife, who was White, and two children, including their interracial child.

The vote was 6-3, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor and liberal colleagues Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson dissenting from the court’s order.

Andre Lee Thomas was convicted to death by an all-White jury, including three jurors who expressed opposition to interracial marriage on their jury questionnaires. Thomas’ counsel at the time raised no objection about the three jurors.

Thomas, suffering from severe schizophrenia, murdered his wife, Laura Christine Boren, and the children before attempting to take his own life in 2004. Days later, in his jail cell, Thomas gouged out his right eye.

“Thomas’ case undermines principles this Court has repeatedly and forcefully protected: the right to an impartial jury, and the recognition that overt racial bias in the criminal justice system must be eradicated,” Sherrilyn Ifill, a lawyer for Thomas, argued in court papers.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the court not to step in, noting in court papers that Thomas’ counsel had “questioned one of the jurors at issue about racial bias extensively in voir dire” and that “the trial court ensured that the other two could render an impartial verdict in view of the evidence, and the record shows other reasons why defense counsel might have wanted these jurors to serve on the jury.”

Texas also claimed that Thomas’ trial counsel was “experienced” and made “strategic decisions” concerning the extent they questioned the jurors at issue about their views on interracial marriage. The state says the defense used its preemptory strikes on jurors who “in their view” would have been much worse than those seated.

Maurie Levin, one of Thomas’ attorneys, blasted the decision by the Supreme Court to not take up the case.

“His entire life reflects the disparity and bias with which people of color are treated and viewed, and that translates directly into a death sentence,” Levin told CNN.