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Powers v. Ohio

Supreme Court of the United States

October 9, 1990, Argued ; April 1, 1991, Decided

No. 89-5011


 [*402]  [***419]  [**1366]     Jury service is an exercise of responsible citizenship by all members of the community, including those who otherwise might not have the opportunity to contribute to our civic life. Congress recognized this over a century ago in the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which made it a criminal offense to exclude persons from jury service on account of their race. See 18 U. S. C. § 243. In a trilogy of cases decided soon after enactment of this prohibition, our Court confirmed the validity of the statute, as well as the broader constitutional imperative of race neutrality in jury selection. See Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1880); Virginia v. Rives, 100 U.S. 313 (1880); Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339 (1880). In the many times we have [****6]  confronted the issue since those cases, we have not questioned the premise that racial discrimination in the qualification or selection of jurors offends the dignity of persons and the integrity of the courts. Despite the clarity of these commands to eliminate the taint of racial discrimination in the administration of justice, allegations of bias in the jury selection process persist. In this case, petitioner alleges race discrimination in the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges. Invoking the Equal Protection Clause and federal statutory law, and relying upon well-established principles of standing, we hold that ] a criminal defendant may object to race-based exclusions of jurors effected through peremptory challenges whether or not the defendant and the excluded jurors share the same race.

Petitioner Larry Joe Powers, a white man, was indicted in Franklin County, Ohio, on two counts of aggravated  [***420]  murder and one count of attempted aggravated murder. Each count also included a separate allegation that petitioner had a firearm while committing the offense. Powers pleaded [****7]  not guilty and invoked his right to a jury trial.

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499 U.S. 400 *; 111 S. Ct. 1364 **; 113 L. Ed. 2d 411 ***; 1991 U.S. LEXIS 1857 ****; 59 U.S.L.W. 4268; 91 Cal. Daily Op. Service 2259; 91 Daily Journal DAR 3732



Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


jurors, peremptory, third-party, venire, discriminatory, color, concrete, murder, venirepersons, race-based, systematic, deprived, casts, bias, speculation, aggravated, stricken, joined, struck

Criminal Law & Procedure, Challenges to Jury Venire, Equal Protection Challenges, General Overview, Constitutional Law, Equal Protection, National Origin & Race, Application to Ethnicity, Nature & Scope of Protection, Juries & Jurors, Governments, Courts, Creation & Organization, Civil Procedure, Jury Trials, Jurors, Qualifications, Fair Cross Section Challenges, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Procedural Matters, Criminal Penalties, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Jury Trial, Appeals, Right to Appeal, Defendants, Justiciability, Standing, Third Party Standing, Selection, Voir Dire