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Miller-El v. Dretke

Supreme Court of the United States

December 6, 2004, Argued ; June 13, 2005, Decided

No. 03-9659

Opinion

 [**2322]   [*235]  Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

LEdHN[1A][] [1A] Two years ago, we ordered that a certificate of appealability, under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), be issued to habeas petitioner Miller-El, affording review of the District Court's rejection of the claim that prosecutors  [***211]  in his capital murder trial made peremptory strikes of potential jurors based on race. Today we find Miller-El entitled to prevail on that claim and order relief under § 2254.

In the course of robbing a Holiday Inn in Dallas, Texas, in late 1985, Miller-El and his accomplices bound and gagged  [*236]  two hotel employees, whom Miller-El then shot, killing one and severely injuring the other.  During jury selection in Miller-El's trial for capital murder, prosecutors used peremptory strikes against 10 qualified black venire members. Miller-El objected that the strikes were based on race and could not be presumed legitimate,  [****12]  given a history of excluding black members from criminal juries by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office. The trial court received evidence of the practice alleged but found no "systematic exclusion of blacks as a matter of policy" by that office, App. 882-883, and therefore no entitlement to relief under  Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202, 13 L. Ed. 2d 759, 85 S. Ct. 824 (1965), the case then defining and marking the limits of relief from racially biased jury selection. The court denied Miller-El's request to pick a new jury, and the trial ended with his death sentence for capital murder.

While an appeal was pending, this Court decided  Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986), which replaced  Swain's threshold requirement to prove systemic discrimination under a Fourteenth Amendment jury claim, with the rule that discrimination by the [**2323]  prosecutor in selecting the defendant's jury sufficed to establish the constitutional violation. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals then remanded the matter to the trial court to determine whether Miller-El could show that prosecutors in his case peremptorily struck prospective black jurors because of race.  Miller-El v. State, 748 S.W.2d 459 (1988) (en banc). [****13]  

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545 U.S. 231 *; 125 S. Ct. 2317 **; 162 L. Ed. 2d 196 ***; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 4658 ****; 73 U.S.L.W. 4479; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 376

THOMAS JOE MILLER-EL, Petitioner v. DOUG DRETKE, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS DIVISION

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

 Miller-El v. Dretke, 361 F.3d 849, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 3698 (5th Cir. Tex., 2004)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

death penalty, juror, questioning, questionnaires, ambivalent, voir dire, script, struck, graphic, veniremen, nonblack, panel member, rehabilitation, reasons, peremptory challenge, shuffled, peremptory, state court, jury selection, answers, strikes, disparate, potential juror, panelists, trial court, Lodging, murder, cards, views, juror questionnaire

Constitutional Law, Equal Protection, National Origin & Race, Criminal Law & Procedure, Challenges to Jury Venire, Equal Protection Challenges, Application to Ethnicity, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Jury Trial, General Overview, Nature & Scope of Protection, Tests for Equal Protection Violations, Legal Ethics, Prosecutorial Conduct, Review, Standards of Review, Evidence, Presumptions, Particular Presumptions, Regularity, Civil Procedure, Judicial Officers, Judges, Juries & Jurors, Voir Dire, Governments, Courts, Clerks of Court