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Law School Case Brief

Teague v. Lane - 489 U.S. 288, 109 S. Ct. 1060 (1989)


Unless they fall within an exception to the general rule, new constitutional rules of criminal procedure will not be applicable to those cases which have become final before the new rules are announced.


Petitioner Frank Teague, who isAfrican-American, was convicted in an Illinois state court of attempted murder and other offenses by an all-white jury. During jury selection, the prosecutor used all 10 of his peremptory challenges to exclude blacks. Teague twice unsuccessfully moved for a mistrial, arguing that he was "entitled to a jury of his peers." The prosecutor defended the challenges by stating that he was trying to achieve a balance of men and women on the jury. After an unsuccessful state-court appeal, in which Teague argued that the prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges denied him the right to be tried by a jury that was representative of the community, 

Teague filed a habeas corpus petition in Federal District Court, repeating his fair cross section claim. He further argued that the opinions of several Justices concurring in, or dissenting from, the denial of certiorari in McCray v. New York, 461 U.S. 961, had invited a reexamination of Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202, as to what a defendant must show to establish a prima facie case of discrimination with respect to a peremptory challenge system. Teague also argued, for the first time that, under Swain, a prosecutor could be questioned about his use of peremptory challenges once he volunteered an explanation. The District Court held that it was bound by Swain and as well as circuit precedent and denied relief. A panel of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed with petitioner that the Sixth Amendment's fair cross section requirement that applied to a jury venire also applied to a petit jury, and held that Teague had made out a prima facie case of discrimination. But the Seventh Circuit voted to rehear the case en banc and postponed rehearing until after the Supreme Court's decision in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79. Ultimately, Batson was decided and overruled that portion of Swain setting forth the evidentiary showing necessary to make out a prima facie case of racial discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment with respect to a peremptory challenge system. Batson held that a defendant can establish such a case by showing that he was a "member of a cognizable racial group," that the prosecutor exercised "peremptory challenges to remove from the venire members of the defendant's race," and that these "facts and any other relevant circumstances raise an inference that the prosecutor used that practice to exclude the veniremen from the petit jury on account of their race." The Seventh Circuit then held that Teague could not benefit from the Batson rule because in the meantime Allen v. Hardy, 478 U.S. 255, had held that Batson could not be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review. The Seventh Circuit also held that petitioner's Swain claim was procedurally barred and in any event meritless, and that the fair cross section requirement was limited to the jury venire. The United States Supreme Court granted Teague's petition for certiorari review.


Could new constitutional rules of criminal procedure be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review?




The United States Supreme Court took the opportunity to clarify how the question of retroactivity should be resolved for cases on collateral review. The Court held that the decision of retroactivity should be addressed at the time of the new rule decision. New constitutional rules of criminal procedure were not retroactively applicable to cases that became final before the decision was announced unless one of two exceptions applied. A new rule would be applied retroactively if it placed certain kinds of primary, private individual conduct beyond the power of the criminal law-making authority to proscribe, or if it required the observance of those bedrock procedural elements that were absolutely prerequisite to fundamental fairness implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. Habeas corpus could not be used as a vehicle to create new constitutional rules of criminal procedure unless those rules would be applied retroactively through one of these two exceptions. Because a decision extending the fair cross-section requirement to the petit jury would not be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review under this approach, the Court refused to address Teague's claim and affirmed the judgment of the Seventh Circuit.

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