US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Breaks Three-Year Silence During Oral Argument

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is (in)famous for remaining silent during oral arguments, but last week during the oral argument of Flowers v. Mississippi, he broke his silence to ask a question. The case presents a question about whether a Mississippi prosecutor engaged in unlawful exclusion of jurors on the basis of race in the series of trials of Curtis Flowers, who was charged with several murders.

Justice Thomas asked (unremarkably, notwithstanding the unusual circumstance of his speaking) the attorney for Flowers, “And what was the race of the jurors struck there?” (the answer was “white”).

Sheri Lynn Johnson, who represented Flowers, is a law professor at Cornell Law. She is an expert on the interface of race and issues in criminal procedure and the Assistant Director of the Cornell Death Penalty project.

Additional Resources

Clarence Thomas Breaks a Three-Year Silence at Supreme Court, New York Times, March 20, 2019

Supreme Court examination of jury discrimination prompts rare question from Clarence Thomas, Washington Post, March 20, 2019

Photo credit: Rob Crandall /