Batson v. Kentucky Case Brief

Facts of the case

Batson, a black man, was on trial charged with second-degree burglary and receipt of stolen goods. During the jury selection, the prosecutor used his peremptory challenges to strike the four black persons on the venire, resulting in a jury composed of all whites. Batson was convicted on both of the charges against him.

Why is the case important?

This appeal was brought after the State used peremptory challenges to strike all black jurors from the trial of a black man.

Question

Whether a party may use peremptory challenges to remove members from a jury venire who are demographically similar to the defendant.

ANSWER

Justice Powell, for the court, wrote the opinion, opining that when it appears the prosecutor is using challenges in violation of equal protection, the State bears the burden of proving a reason for the challenges.

CONCLUSION

The Court found that the prosecutor’s actions violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Relying heavily on precedents set in Strauder v. West Virginia (1880) and Swain v. Alabama (1965), Justice Powell held that racial discrimination in the selection of jurors not only deprives the accused of important rights during a trial, but also is devastating to the community at large because it undermines public confidence in the fairness of our system of justice.Without identifying a neutralreason why the four blacks should have been excluded from the jury, the prosecutor’s actions were in violation of the Constitution.

  • Advocates: J. David Niehaus Argued the cause for the petitioner Rickie Leon Pearson Argued the cause for the respondent Lawrence G. Wallace Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance
  • Petitioner: Batson
  • Respondent: Kentucky
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Circuit Court of Jefferson County
Citation: 476 US 79 (1986)
Argued: Dec 12, 1985
Decided: Apr 30, 1986
Batson v. Kentucky Case Brief