Batson v. Kentucky
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2008)|
|Batson v. Kentucky|
Supreme Court of the United States
|Argued December 12, 1985
Decided April 30, 1986
|Full case name||Batson v. Kentucky|
|Citations||476 U.S. 79 (more)
476 U.S. 79; 106 S. Ct. 1712; 90 L. Ed. 2d 69; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 150; 54 U.S.L.W. 4425
|Prior history||Defendant found guilty in Kentucky Circuit Court; Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed; cert. granted, 471 U.S. 1052 (1985)|
|Strauder v. West Virginia reaffirmed; prosecutors may not use race as a factor in making peremptory challenges; defendants must only make a prima facie showing on the evidence from their case to mount a challenge to race-based use of peremptories.|
|Majority||Powell, joined by Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor|
|Concurrence||Stevens, joined by Brennan|
|Dissent||Burger, joined by Rehnquist|
|Dissent||Rehnquist, joined by Burger|
|U.S. Const., amend. XIV|
Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenge—the dismissal of jurors without stating a valid cause for doing so—may not be used to exclude jurors based solely on their race. The Court ruled that this practice violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
James Kirkland Batson was an African American man convicted of burglary and receipt of stolen goods in a Louisville, Kentucky circuit court by a jury composed entirely of white jurors. The key part of his appeal was based on the jury selection, or voir dire phase of the trial. During this phase potential jurors are examined by the Court, the prosecution, and the defense, to determine their competence, willingness, and suitability to hear, deliberate and decide a case put to them to render a verdict. During voir dire the judge can dismiss jurors and both the prosecution and the defense have a limited number of peremptory challenges, which are accepted on their face, as the right of the party making the challenge and which they use to excuse any juror for any reason which the particular side believes will help their case.
In this case, the judge dismissed several potential jurors for various causes. The defense peremptorily challenged nine potential jurors and the prosecutor, Joe Gutmann, peremptorily challenged six, including all four black persons, and a jury composed only of white persons was selected. The defense counsel moved to discharge the whole jury 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. Without expressly ruling on petitioner's request for a hearing, the trial judge denied the motion, and the jury ultimately convicted the defendant.
The defendant appealed his conviction to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which affirmed the conviction. That court cited Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202 (1965) and held that a defendant alleging lack of a fair cross section must demonstrate systematic exclusion of a group of jurors from the panel of prospective jurors. That is, the defendant had to show that not just in his case, but as a process, juries in his community were being constructed so as to not represent a cross section of that community. Batson continued his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari to decide whether petitioner was tried "in violation of constitutional provisions guaranteeing the defendant an impartial jury and a jury composed of persons representing a fair cross section of the community."
The court's decision 
In a 7–2 decision authored by Justice Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr., the court ruled in Batson's favor. The court overruled Swain v. Alabama by lowering the burden of proof that a defendant must meet to make a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination. In Swain, the court had recognized that a "State's purposeful or deliberate denial to Negroes on account of race of participation as jurors in the administration of justice violates the Equal Protection Clause". But the decision held that the defendant had the burden of proving a systematic striking of black jurors throughout the county, that is, that the peremptory challenge system as a whole was being perverted. In Batson the court ruled that the defendant could make a prima facie case for purposeful racial discrimination in jury selection by relying on the record only in his own case. The Court explained further:
The defendant first must show that he is a member of a cognizable racial group, and that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges to remove from the venire [jury pool] members of the defendant's race. The defendant may also rely on the fact that peremptory challenges constitute a jury selection practice that permits those to discriminate who are of a mind to discriminate. Finally, the defendant must show that such facts and any other relevant circumstances raise an inference that the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to exclude the veniremen from the petit jury on account of their race. Once the defendant makes a prima facie showing, the burden shifts to the State to come forward with a neutral explanation for challenging black jurors.
The decision also held that:
- A State denies a black defendant equal protection when it puts him on trial before a jury from which members of his race have been purposely excluded;
- A defendant has no right to a petit jury composed in whole or in part of persons of his own race. However, the Equal Protection Clause guarantees the defendant that the State will not exclude members of his race from the jury venire on account of race, or on the false assumption that members of his race as a group are not qualified to serve as jurors
- The peremptory challenge occupies an important position in trial procedures.
The decision of the court did not apply retroactively to anyone convicted prior to Batson by juries whose racial composition was influenced by peremptory challenges not consistent with this opinion.
Burger's dissent 
In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Warren Burger argued that the court's decision in Batson effectively did away with the peremptory challenge, "a procedure which has been part of the common law for many centuries and part of our jury system for nearly 200 years". The peremptory challenge, he believed, was largely ended and replaced with something very similar to challenge for cause:
The effect of the Court's decision, however, will be to force the defendant to come forward and 'articulate a neutral explanation' for his peremptory challenge, a burden he probably cannot meet. This example demonstrates that today's holding will produce juries that the parties do not believe are truly impartial. This will surely do more than 'disconcert' litigants; it will diminish confidence in the jury system.
Batson in modern law 
The term Batson challenge has come to mean asking that a trial be invalidated on the basis of peremptory challenges that excluded a cognizable group from the jury, such as excluding on the basis of race alone. Though the Batson decision addressed jury selection in criminal trials, the court later extended the same rule to civil trials in Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company. It has also been extended to sex-based peremptory challenges by J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel. T.B. 511 U.S. 127 (1994).
An attempt to extend Batson to cover sexual orientation failed in U.S. v. Blaylock. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit doubted that Batson covered sexual orientation but that even if it did the prosecution in this case had "offered legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for striking the panel member".
Batson has been applied to the discriminatory use of peremptory strikes against judges in a California case, Superior Court v. Williams (8 Cal. App. 4th 688). Defense counsel objected to the prosecution's motion to disqualify an African-American judge, suspecting that the motion was racially motivated. The Court noted that use of Equal Protection in Batson to combat racially discriminatory strikes against jurors was well established and that subsequent decisions had extended these protections in other contexts. The Court held that "these principles are equally applicable to race-based challenges to judges."
Case participants after Batson 
When the Supreme Court reversed his conviction, Batson was serving a twenty-year sentence. Rather than risk a retrial, he pleaded guilty to burglary and received a five-year prison sentence. After his release, Batson was convicted of several offenses including burglary, theft, receiving stolen property, and persistent-felony convictions. He was released from prison again in January 2003 and remains on parole through 2026.
Joe Gutmann, the prosecutor in Batson's 1982 trial, said that the Supreme Court's decision was "a good one" because it prevents lawyers from discriminating in jury selection. He teaches government and history at inner-city Louisville Central High School. He has said he removed the black members of the venire not because of their race, but because they were young and might sympathize with Batson.
Batson is a construction worker in Louisville, Kentucky, and says of the media attention the case received: "It's so old, they ought to let it go."
See also