Failing the Batson Test
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.