In March of this year, in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado (SCOTUSblog case page), the Supreme Court invoked the “imperative to purge racial prejudice from the administration of justice” and used that command to pierce the rule protecting the secrecy of juror deliberations. Slip. op. at 13. The Court found that Colorado Rule of Evidence 606 (equivalent to M.R.E. 606) could not stand in the way of an accused’s right to probe the verdict for evidence of racial bias:
[T]he Constitution requires an exception to the no-impeachment rule when a juror’s statements indicate that racial animus was a significant motivating factor in his or her finding of guilt.
Slip. op. at 2. The Court explained:
It must become the heritage of our Nation to rise above racial classifications that are so inconsistent with our commitment to the equal dignity of all persons.
Slip. op. at 13. It is against that backdrop that questions regarding whether the military justice system is racially biased has joined the already feverish discussion regarding the system’s handling of sexual assault.
Ten days ago, Newsweek asked “Is the Military Racist?” A headline in USA Today added: “Black troops as much as twice as likely to be punished by commanders, courts.” NBC reported: “Black Troops More Likely to Face Military Punishment than Whites.” And McClatchy newspapers noted: “Black troops far more likely to face military punishment in every service branch.”