Rivera v. Illinois

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Rivera v. Illinois
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued February 23, 2009
Decided March 31, 2009
Full case name Michael Rivera, Petitioner v. Illinois
Docket nos. 07-9995
Citations 556 U.S. ___ (more)
Prior history Holding for the defendant, Supreme Court of the State of Illinois
Unintentional errors by the court, that would not have altered the proceedings of the case, do not warrant a new trial and do not violate the Sixth Amendment's clause of the right to a fair trial.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Ginsburg, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. VI

Rivera v. Illinois, 556 U.S. ___ (2009), was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2009.[1] Oral arguments took place Monday, February 23, 2009.[2]


The facts present a novel issue in criminal procedure. The Court will determine if a trial would have had a different outcome had all the jurors been properly seated. In the instant case, one of the jurors was, in fact, not properly seated. If the court decides this is a significant error, it must determine what legal remedy is appropriate in such a case.[3]


The named petitioner in the case is Michael Rivera.[4] He was convicted of two counts of first degree murder in 1998. He was then sentenced to eighty-five years in prison. During the pre-trial voir dire, Rivera's counsel used a peremptory challenge to have a juror removed from consideration. The judge deemed the challenge to be based on discriminatory factors and allowed the juror to be seated.[5]

Appealing his subsequent guilty verdict, Rivera's attorney argued on appeal that the trial judge erred in dismissing the peremptory challenge. The Illinois Supreme Court remanded the case, giving the trial judge instructions to explain why he ruled the peremptory challenge in question to be discriminatory. The trial judge submitted gender discrimination as the relevant discriminatory factor.

Unsatisfied with this explanation, the Illinois Supreme Court held that Rivera was wrongly denied his challenge to dismiss the juror. The state supreme court found no evidence that Rivera's attorney used discriminatory considerations in arguing for the dismissal of the juror in question. Despite this, the state supreme court decided that such a mistake constituted a harmless error.[6]

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling[edit]

James K. Leven argued the case for the petitioner. Michael A. Scodro argued the case for the respondent. Assistant to the Solicitor General Matthew D. Roberts argued the case for the United States, as amicus curiae, in support of the respondent.[7]

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Illinois Supreme Court decision in a unanimous opinion.[8]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]