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Batson v. Kentucky

Supreme Court of the United States

December 12, 1985, Argued ; April 30, 1986, Decided

No. 84-6263


 [*82]   [***77]   [**1714]  JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case requires us to reexamine that portion of Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202 (1965), concerning the evidentiary burden placed on a criminal defendant who claims that he has been denied equal protection through the State's use of peremptory challenges to  [**1715]  exclude members of his race from the petit jury. 2

 [****8]  I

 [***78]  Petitioner, a black man, was indicted in Kentucky on charges of second-degree burglary and receipt of stolen goods. On the first day of trial in Jefferson Circuit Court, the judge conducted voir dire examination of the venire, excused certain jurors for cause, and permitted the parties to  [*83]  exercise peremptory challenges. 3 The prosecutor used his peremptory challenges to strike all four black persons on the venire, and a jury composed only of white persons was selected. Defense counsel moved to discharge the jury before it was sworn on the ground that the prosecutor's removal of the black veniremen violated petitioner's rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to a jury drawn from a cross section of the community, and under the Fourteenth Amendment to equal protection of the laws. Counsel requested a hearing on his motion. Without expressly ruling on the request for a hearing, the trial judge observed that the parties were entitled to use their peremptory challenges to "strike anybody they want to." The judge then denied petitioner's motion, reasoning that the cross-section requirement applies only to selection of the venire and not to selection [****9]  of the petit jury itself.

The jury convicted petitioner on both counts. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Kentucky, petitioner pressed, among other claims, the argument concerning the prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges. Conceding that Swain v. Alabama, supra, apparently foreclosed an equal protection claim based solely on the prosecutor's conduct in this case,  [***79]   [****10]  petitioner urged the court to follow decisions of other States, People v. Wheeler, 22 Cal. 3d 258, 583 P. 2d 748 (1978); Commonwealth v. Soares, 377 Mass. 461, 387 N. E. 2d 499, cert. denied, 444 U.S. 881 (1979), and to hold that such conduct violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment and § 11 of the Kentucky Constitution  [**1716]  to a jury drawn from a cross section of the community.  Petitioner also contended  [*84]  that the facts showed that the prosecutor had engaged in a "pattern" of discriminatory challenges in this case and established an equal protection violation under Swain.

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476 U.S. 79 *; 106 S. Ct. 1712 **; 90 L. Ed. 2d 69 ***; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 150 ****; 54 U.S.L.W. 4425



Batson v. Kentucky, 471 U.S. 1052, 85 L. Ed. 2d 476, 105 S. Ct. 2111, 1985 U.S. LEXIS 2759 (1985)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


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Criminal Law & Procedure, Juries & Jurors, Voir Dire, General Overview, Counsel, Right to Counsel, Legal Ethics, Professional Conduct, Illegal Conduct, Challenges for Cause, Peremptory Challenges, Number of Challenges, Challenges to Jury Venire, Equal Protection Challenges, Application to Ethnicity, Equal Protection Rule, Fair Cross Section Challenges, Constitutional Law, Equal Protection, National Origin & Race, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Jury Trial, Criminal Offenses, Weapons Offenses, Disqualification & Removal of Jurors, Civil Procedure, Jurors, Selection, Civil Rights Law, Elements, Color of State Law, Jury Trials, Qualifications, Tests for Equal Protection Violations, Trials, Burdens of Proof, Defense, Evidence, Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Prosecution, Proving Discriminatory Use