Batson v. Kentucky


Petitioner was an African American male found guilty of burglary.  His jury at trial was entirely white; and he appealed on the basis of jury selection.  The record indicated that the judge dismissed various jurors for legitimate purposes.  In jury selection an opposing attorney may use a peremptory challenge (in a limited number, based on jurisdiction).  The prosecution used this challenge – which can dismiss any juror for any reason – 6 times and dismissed all the remaining black jurors.  Petitioner claimed this was a violation of the equal protection clause of the constitution.  On the initial appeal petitioner lost because the court found that a petitioner must establish a clear pattern of dismissal of black jurors from the panel.  The court held that the standard was that petitioner had to show a process of exclusion.


Whether the dismissal of all black jurors constitutes a violation of the equal protection clause.


Yes, appellate decision overruled.  The court wrote that in order to establish a prima facie case of jury discrimination, purposeful discrimination does not need to be shown.  The petitioner need only show – to establish a prima facie case – that the record shows the exclusion of a particular group.  Moreover, the Petitioner must show “that such facts/record/circumstances raise an inference that the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to exclude veniremen from the petit jury on account of their race.”  When the prima facie case is established, it will not be the burden of the state to show that they had a race neutral justification for dismissing a particular group entirely from the jury pool.  The court wrote that where the government cannot identify a reason for their dismissal of an entire race of people, the petitioner’s equal protection rights are violated.

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