Georgia v. McCollum

PETITIONER: Georgia
RESPONDENT: Thomas McCollum et al.
LOCATION: Dougherty Superior Court

DOCKET NO.: 91-372
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Georgia

CITATION: 505 US 42 (1992)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 1992
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Harrison W. Kohler - on behalf of the Petitioner
Michael R. Dreeben - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae supporting the Petitioner
Robert H. Revell, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

In 1990, white respondents, Thomas McCollum, William Joseph McCollum, and Ella Hampton McCollum, were charged with assaulting two black individuals. Before the criminal trial, the prosecution moved to bar the defense from using its peremptory challenges to eliminate black people from the juror pool. The term "preemptory challenge" refers to the right to reject a potential juror during jury selection without giving a reason. The trial judge denied the prosecution's motion, and, when the prosecution appealed, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial judge's decision.

Question

Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibit a criminal defendant's use of peremptory challenges to discriminate against potential jurors on the basis of race?

Media for Georgia v. McCollum

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 1992 in Georgia v. McCollum

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 18, 1992 in Georgia v. McCollum

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

One of these is No. 91-372, Georgia against McCollum.

The respondents who are White were charged with assaulting two African-Americans.

Before the jury selection began, the trial judge denied the prosecution to motion to prohibit the defendants from exercising preemptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner.

The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed and distinguished a recent case here where this Court had held that private litigants cannot exercise preemptory strikes in a racially discriminatory manner.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reverse that judgment and hold that the Constitution prohibits a criminal defendant from engaging in purposeful discrimination on the grounds of race in the exercise of preemptory challenges.

Doing this inflicts the harms addressed in the Batson case decided here sometime ago.

A criminal defendant's exercise of preemptory challenges constitutes state action.

The state has third party standing to challenge the defendants' discriminatory use of challenges and the prohibition does not violate a criminal defendant's constitutional right.

The Chief Justice, while joining the opinion, has filed a concurring statement; Justice Thomas has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice O'Connor and Justice Scalia each have filed dissenting opinions.