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Batson v. Kentucky
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
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)
Subsequent history Remanded
Holding
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.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Powell, joined by Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor
Concurrence White
Concurrence Marshall
Concurrence Stevens, joined by Brennan
Concurrence O'Connor
Dissent Burger, joined by Rehnquist
Dissent Rehnquist, joined by Burger
Laws applied
U.S. Const., amend. XIV

Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), was a landmark decision in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor could not exclude jurors from jury duty based only on their race. Prosecutors were allowed to use peremptory challenges when selecting a jury, meaning that they were allowed to exclude people without giving a reason if they think it will help their case. This sometimes allowed them to exclude people based on their race (without saying so), which violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case brought about the term Batson challenge, an objection to a peremptory challenge.

Background

James Kirkland Batson was an African American man convicted of burglary and receiving stolen items. Hew as tried in a Louisville, Kentucky court by a jury that consisted of only white jurors.

During the interview phase to select jurors for the case, the defense side peremptorily challenged nine possible jurors and the prosecution side (the side that was trying to prove Batson's guilt) peremptorily challenged six. This included all four black persons who were being interviewed. The defense did not think this was fair and tried to get a new jury that more evenly reflected the community, but the judge did not agree, and Batson was tried and convicted.

Court Decisions

The defendant (Batson) appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which agreed with the judge. However, when Batson continued his appeal to the U.S. Supreme court, they ruled 7-2 in Batson's favor. They ruled that it was not fair for the black persons to be removed from the jury with no reason given.

Justice Marshall, agreeing with the majority, called the decision "historic" but added, "The decision today will not end the racial discrimination that peremptories inject into the jury-selection process. That goal can be accomplished only by eliminating peremptory challenges entirely."

Impact

While the Batson challenge ruling did not apply to cases that had already been tried, it does apply to current cases. Jurors are no longer allowed to be excluded from the jury pool if it can be shown that race (decided in 1987) or gender (decided in 1994) was the only reason for exclusion.

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