Decision: Prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from jury trying black defendant held basis for equal protection claim of purposeful discrimination


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476 U.S. 79, *; 106 S. Ct. 1712, **;

90 L. Ed. 2d 69, ***







BATSON v. KENTUCKY
No. 84-6263
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
476 U.S. 79; 106 S. Ct. 1712; 90 L. Ed. 2d 69; 54 U.S.L.W. 4425
December 12, 1985, Argued

April 30, 1986, Decided


PRIOR HISTORY: CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF KENTUCKY.

Batson v. Kentucky, 471 U.S. 1052, 85 L. Ed. 2d 476, 105 S. Ct. 2111
DISPOSITION: Reversed and remanded.

DECISION:

Prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from jury trying black defendant held basis for equal protection claim of purposeful discrimination.
SUMMARY:

At the trial before the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Kentucky, of a black man charged with second-degree burglary and receipt of stolen goods, the prosecutor used his peremptory challenges to strike all four black persons on the venire, so that a jury composed only of white persons was selected. Defense counsel moved to discharge the jury, partly on the ground that the prosecutor's actions in this case violated the accused's right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. Without expressly ruling on defense counsel's request for a hearing on these issues, the Circuit Court denied the motion, noting that parties could use their peremptory challenges to strike anybody they wanted to. Conceding that the decision in Swain v Alabama (1965) 380 US 202, 13 L Ed 2d 759, 85 S Ct 824, which found no basis for an inference of purposeful discrimination where a defendant offered no proof, beyond the facts of his own case, of the circumstances under which prosecutors had used peremptory challenges to strike black jurors, apparently foreclosed his equal protection claim, the accused relied on other theories in appealing his subsequent conviction. The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed, noting that it had recently reaffirmed its reliance on Swain v Alabama, supra.

On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. In an opinion by Powell, J., joined by Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Stevens, and O'Connor, JJ., overruling in part Swain v Alabama, supra, it was held (1) that the equal protection clause forbids a prosecutor to peremptorily challenge potential jurors solely on account of their race or on the assumption that black jurors as a group will be unable to impartially consider the prosecution's case against a black defendant; (2) that a criminal defendant may establish a prima facie case of purposeful racial discrimination in the selection of the jury based solely on evidence concerning the prosecutor's exercise of peremptory challenges at the defendant's trial, without showing repeated instances of such discriminatory conduct over a number of cases; and (3) that once a defendant makes such a prima facie showing, the burden shifts to the prosecution to come forward with a neutral explanation for challenging the jurors which relates to the particular case to be tried.

White, J., concurred, expressing the view (1) that a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges in a particular case to strike blacks from the petit jury panel in the trial of a black defendant is a proper subject for constitutional inquiry, and may raise an inference, which the prosecutor bears the burden of refuting, that such actions were based on the belief that no black citizen can fairly try a black defendant; but (2) that this decision should not be applied retroactively.

Marshall, J., concurred, expressing the view that the only effective way to prevent the racially discriminatory use of peremptory challenges is to eliminate peremptory challenges entirely.

Stevens, J., joined by Brennan, J., concurred, expressing the view that the court had properly resolved the equal protection issue in this case, despite defense counsel's failure to rely on that ground of decision on certiorari, in view of the fact that the state had explicitly rested on that issue as a controlling basis for affirmance and that several amici curiae had also addressed the issue.

O'Connor, J., concurred, expressing the view that the court's decision should not apply retroactively.

Burger, Ch. J., joined by Rehnquist, J., dissented, expressing the view (1) that the court should not have reversed an important constitutional precedent, based on an argument which the accused had expressly declined to raise either on certiorari or in the state Supreme Court below, without at least directing reargument and briefing on the issue; (2) that peremptory challenges serve a vital role in the jury trial process and should not be restricted in this manner; and (3) that the court's decision should not apply retroactively.

Rehnquist, J., joined by Burger, Ch. J., dissented, expressing the view that the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from a particular jury based on the assumption or belief that they would be more likely to favor a black defendant, as opposed to excluding them from juries in case after case for reasons wholly unrelated to the outcome of the particular case on trial, does not violate the equal protection clause.
LAWYERS' EDITION HEADNOTES:
[***LEdHN1]

EVIDENCE §252

burden of proof -- racial exclusion from jury --

Headnote:[1A][1B][1C]

Criminal defendants who claim that they have been denied equal protection of the laws, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, through the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to exclude members of their race from the petit jury, may establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination solely on evidence concerning the prosecutor's exercise of peremptory challenges at the defendants' trial, and need not show repeated instances of such conduct over a number of cases; to establish such a prima facie case, such defendants must first show that they are members of a cognizable racial group and that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges to remove from the venire members of the defendants' race; second, the defendants may rely on the fact that peremptory challenges are a jury selection practice which allow those who are minded to discriminate to do so; and finally, the defendants must show that these facts and any other relevant circumstances raise an inference that the prosecutor used that practice to exclude the veniremen from the petit jury on account of their race. (Burger, Ch. J., and Rehnquist, J., dissented from this holding.)
[***LEdHN2]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

racial exclusion from jury --

Headnote:[2]

A state's purposeful or deliberate denial to blacks on account of race of participation as jurors in the administration of justice violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
[***LEdHN3]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

racial exclusion from jury --

Headnote:[3A][3B]

The basic principles prohibiting exclusion of persons from participation in jury service on account of their race are essentially the same for grand juries and for petit juries.
[***LEdHN4]

CIVIL RIGHTS §9

criminal defendant -- jurors of same race --

Headnote:[4]

A criminal defendant has no right, under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, to a jury composed in whole or in part of persons of his own race.
[***LEdHN5]

JURY §35

selection -- cross section --

Headnote:[5A][5B]

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that the petit jury will be selected from a pool of names representing a cross section of the community.
[***LEdHN6]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

selection of jury --

Headnote:[6A][6B]

A criminal defendant has a right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected pursuant to nondiscriminatory criteria; the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids discrimination on account of race in the selection of the petit jury.
[***LEdHN7]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

selection of jury --

Headnote:[7]

The equal protection clause guarantees criminal defendants that the prosecution will not exclude members of their race from the jury venire on account of race, or on the false assumption that members of their race as a group are not qualified to serve as jurors.
[***LEdHN8]

JURY §35

composition -- peers of party --

Headnote:[8]

The very idea of a jury is a body composed of the peers or equals of the person whose rights it is selected or summoned to determine; that is, of that party's neighbors, fellows, associates, persons having the same legal status in society as the party holds.
[***LEdHN9]

JURY §38

competency --

Headnote:[9]

Competence to serve as a juror ultimately depends on an assessment of individual qualifications and ability impartially to consider evidence presented at a trial.
[***LEdHN10]

JURY §38

competency -- race --

Headnote:[10]

A person's race is unrelated to his or her fitness as a juror.
[***LEdHN11]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

racial exclusion of jurors --

Headnote:[11]

By denying a person participation in jury service on account of his or her race, the state unconstitutionally discriminates against the excluded juror.
[***LEdHN12]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

selection of jurors --

Headnote:[12]

The Federal Constitution requires courts to look beyond the face of a statute defining juror qualifications and also consider challenged selection practices in order to afford protection against action of the state through its administrative officers in effecting prohibited racial discrimination in jury selection.
[***LEdHN13]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

JURY §44

peremptory challenges -- equal protection --

Headnote:[13]

The prosecution's privilege to strike individual jurors through peremptory challenges is subject to the commands of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
[***LEdHN14]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

JURY §44

peremptory challenges -- racial discrimination --

Headnote:[14A][14B]

Although a prosecutor ordinarily is entitled to exercise permitted peremptory challenges for any reason at all, so long as that reason is related to the prosecutor's view concerning the outcome of the case to be tried, the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids the prosecutor to challenge potential jurors solely on account of their race or on the assumption that black jurors as a group will be unable impartially to consider the prosecution's case against a black defendant. (Burger, Ch. J., and Rehnquist, J., dissented from this holding.)
[***LEdHN15]

CIVIL RIGHTS §4.5

discriminatory purpose --

Headnote:[15]

As a general equal protection principle, the invidious quality of governmental action claimed to be racially discriminatory must ultimately be traced to a racially discriminatory purpose.
[***LEdHN16]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

EVIDENCE §252

selection of jury -- burden of proof --

Headnote:[16]

As in any equal protection case, the burden is on a criminal defendant who alleges discriminatory selection of the jury venire to prove the existence of purposeful discrimination; in deciding if the defendant has carried his or her burden of persuasion, a court must undertake a sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available.
[***LEdHN17]

CIVIL RIGHTS §4.5

discriminatory intent -- disproportionate impact --

Headnote:[17]

Circumstantial evidence of invidious discriminatory intent, in relation to conduct which is alleged to violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, may include proof of disproportionate impact.
[***LEdHN18]

CIVIL RIGHTS §8

EVIDENCE §904.5

selection of jury -- intentional discrimination --

Headnote:[18]

Total or seriously disproportionate exclusion of blacks from jury venires is itself such an unequal application of the law as to show intentional discrimination.
[***LEdHN19]

EVIDENCE §252

jury -- intentional discrimination -- prima facie case --

Headnote:[19]

Black defendants alleging that members of their race have been excluded from the venire in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment may make out a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination by showing that the totality of relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose; once the defendant makes the requisite showing, the burden shifts to the state to explain adequately the racial exclusion; the state cannot meet this burden on mere general assertions that its officials did not discriminate or that they properly performed their official duties, but must demonstrate that permissible racially neutral selection criteria and procedures have produced the monochromatic result.
[***LEdHN20]

EVIDENCE §383

burden of proof -- employment discrimination --

Headnote:[20A][20B]

In actions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USCS 2000e-2000e-17), the party alleging that he has been the victim of intentional discrimination in employment carries the ultimate burden of persuasion.
[***LEdHN21]

EVIDENCE §252

discriminatory selection of jury -- prima facie case --

Headnote:[21]

In order to establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination in the selection of the jury venire, criminal defendants initially must show that they are members of a racial group that is capable of being singled out for differential treatment; in combination with that evidence, defendants may then make a prima facie case by proving that in the particular jurisdiction in question, members of their race have not been summoned for jury service over an extended period of time; a prima facie case may also be found on proof that members of the defendants' race were substantially underrepresented on the venire from which the defendants' jury was drawn, and that the venire was selected under a practice providing the opportunity for discrimination.
[***LEdHN22]

EVIDENCE §252

selection of jury -- prima facie case --

Headnote:[22]

Criminal defendants may make a prima facie showing of purposeful racial discrimination in selection of the jury venire by relying solely on the facts concerning the selection of the venire in their case.
[***LEdHN23]

CIVIL RIGHTS §4.5

official racial discrimination -- pattern of conduct --

Headnote:[23]

A consistent pattern of official racial discrimination is not a necessary predicate to a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; a single invidiously discriminatory governmental act is not immunized by the absence of such discrimination in the making of other comparable decisions.
[***LEdHN24]

EVIDENCE §383

employment discrimination -- burden of proof --

Headnote:[24A][24B]

In actions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USCS 2000e--2000e-17), a person claiming to have been the victim of intentional discrimination in employment may make out a prima facie case by relying solely on the facts concerning the alleged discrimination against him.
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