BATSON V. KENTUCKY, 476 U. S. 79 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986)

Batson v. Kentucky

No. 84-6263

Argued December 12, 1985

Decided April 30, 1986

476 U.S. 79


During the criminal trial in a Kentucky state court of petitioner, a black man, the judge conducted voir dire examination of the jury venire and excused certain jurors for cause. The prosecutor then 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 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 petitioner. Affirming the conviction, the Kentucky Supreme Court observed that recently, in another case, it had relied on Swain v. Alabama, 380 U. S. 202, and had held that a defendant alleging lack of a fair cross-section must demonstrate systematic exclusion of a group of jurors from the venire.


1. The principle announced in Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U. S. 303, 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 purposefully excluded, is reaffirmed. Pp. 476 U. S. 84-89.

(a) A defendant has no right to a petit jury composed in whole or in part of persons of his own race. Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U. S. 303, 100 U. S. 305. 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. By denying a person participation in jury service on account of his race, the State also unconstitutionally discriminates against the excluded juror. Moreover, selection procedures that purposefully exclude black persons from juries undermine public confidence in the fairness of our system of justice. Pp. 476 U. S. 85-88.

(b) The same equal protection principles as are applied to determine whether there is discrimination in selecting the venire also govern the State's use of peremptory challenges to strike individual jurors from the petit jury. Although a prosecutor ordinarily is entitled to exercise

Page 476 U. S. 80

peremptory challenges for any reason, as long as that reason is related to his view concerning the outcome of the case to be tried, the Equal Protection Clause forbids the prosecutor to challenge potential jurors solely on account of their race or on the assumption that black jurors as a group will be unable impartially to consider the State's case against a black defendant. Pp. 476 U. S. 88-89.

2. The portion of Swain v. Alabama, supra, concerning the evidentiary burden placed on a defendant who claims that he has been denied equal protection through the State's discriminatory use of peremptory challenges is rejected. In Swain, it was held that a black defendant could make out a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination on proof that the peremptory challenge system as a whole was being perverted. Evidence offered by the defendant in Swain did not meet that standard, because it did not demonstrate the circumstances under which prosecutors in the jurisdiction were responsible for striking black jurors beyond the facts of the defendant's case. This evidentiary formulation is inconsistent with equal protection standards subsequently developed in decisions relating to selection of the jury venire. A defendant may make a prima facie showing of purposeful racial discrimination in selection of the venire by relying solely on the facts concerning its selection in his case. Pp. 476 U. S. 89-96.

3. A defendant may establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination solely on evidence concerning the prosecutor's exercise of peremptory challenges at the defendant's trial. 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 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 prosecutor may not rebut a prima facie showing by stating that he challenged the jurors on the assumption that they would be partial to the defendant because of their shared race or by affirming his good faith in individual selections. Pp. 476 U. S. 96-98.

4. While the peremptory challenge occupies an important position in trial procedures, the above-stated principles will not undermine the contribution that the challenge generally makes to the administration of justice. Nor will application of such principles create serious administrative difficulties. Pp. 476 U. S. 98-99.

Page 476 U. S. 81

5. Because the trial court here flatly rejected petitioner's objection to the prosecutor's removal of all black persons on the venire without requiring the prosecutor to explain his action, the case is remanded for further proceedings. P. 476 U. S. 100.

Reversed and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., post, p. 476 U. S. 100, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 476 U. S. 102, filed concurring opinions. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 476 U. S. 108. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 476 U. S. 111. BURGER, C.J.,filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 476 U. S. 112. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J.,joined, post, p. 476 U. S. 134.

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