The Blog

November Policy Snapshot

Posted on November 18, 2015

By Gary Ashcroft

As Thanksgiving draws near, and as one lucky bird eagerly awaits a presidential pardon, the Spencer Frye team is here to highlight three political stories that are sure to “gobble up” any awkward pauses in your Turkey Day family arguments discussions.

Forget Bay of Pigs – what about “Bay of Chickens”?

While we’re on the topic of Thanksgiving and poultry, why don’t we talk chicken? No, we’re not talking about Marty McFly’s Achilles’ heel in Back to the Future, but we are talking about future opportunities for Georgia farmers in Cuba. Earlier this year, a delegation of Georgia lawmakers, businesspeople, and educators visited Cuba to assess possibilities for trade with the island nation as it normalizes relations with Washington. Recently, some of those who went on this trip identified a potential cash cow for Georgia commerce – Cuba’s hunger for chicken. They’re not alone in this assessment – the USDA has cited chicken exports as a potential growth sector for US-Cuban trade. So, in the future, when you’re tucking into some succulent pollo con mojo in a restaurant on Cuba’s famous Varadero Beach, you might taste a hint of the Peach State in your Latin fare.

You broke my heart, Fredo Georgia

Back in the day, Cuba was a haven for American organized crime (see The Godfather: Part II). So maybe Georgia should clean up its act before its trade with Cuba gives birth to the Havana Poultry Mafia (aka Cosa Pollo). The Center for Public Integrity, a national advocacy group striving to promote transparency and ethical conduct in government, recently ranked Georgia 24th in the nation in terms of its ethics laws and risks for corruption. Although this is an improvement over Georgia’s last-in-the-nation ranking 3 years ago, Georgia’s ethics letter grade is still an embarrassing D-minus. That’s a mark that belongs on Bart Simpson’s report card, not on the reputation of the Empire State of the South.

The prosecutor ate my homework . . .

Speaking of grades, earlier this month the bane of report cards everywhere made an odd cameo in a production far-removed from a pilgrim-themed kindergarten play: a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. On November 2nd, the justices heard arguments in the case of Foster v. Chatman, in which a black death-row inmate in Georgia, Tim Foster, alleged that prosecutors excluded black jurors from his 1987 murder trial on the basis of race. The Court had previously ruled, in the 1986 case of Batson v. Kentucky, that prosecutors accused of removing jurors on the basis of race could be required to provide non-discriminatory reasons for such removals. Unfortunately, Batson’s mandate has done little to assuage concerns of racial bias in jury selection, although it has led to prosecutors offering “laundry lists” of excuses for removing black jurors.

According to Justice Breyer, prosecutors’ “laundry lists” may themselves be an indication of racial bias. In an entertaining exchange with the lawyer for the State of Georgia, Breyer likened the varied, and often contradictory, excuses offered by Foster’s prosecuting attorney to his grandson’s excuses for not doing homework. Just as he could see past his grandson’s excuses to find the real reason for unfinished schoolwork – the boy just didn’t want to do it – so too could the Court wade through the prosecutor’s excuses to discover the real reason for exclusion of black jurors – racial bias. Although it will likely be months before the court releases its decision, Breyer’s observations, paired with the reservations of conservative justices like Justice Alito, could signal the Court’s willingness to give Foster a shot at another trial.