Failing the Batson Test

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In its 1986 decision Batson v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors may not use peremptory challenges -- which allow them to dismiss jurors without a reason -- to exclude jurors based on their race.

The ruling, and subsequent cases, established a three-part test for judging whether prosecutors were trying to dismiss potential jurors based on race.

¿ A defendant must show that a juror was dismissed at first based on race.

¿ The prosecution must offer a race-neutral basis for eliminating the juror.

¿ Then the trial court must determine if there was "purposeful discrimination."

That is a test, the justices ruled yesterday in Snyder v. Louisiana, that prosecutors and a judge did not pass. "We hold that the trial court committed clear error in its ruling on a Batson objection, and we therefore reverse," Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the 7 to 2 majority.

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