Powers v. Ohio

Facts of the Case

During jury selection at his state-court trial for aggravated murder and related offenses, petitioner Larry Joe Powers, a white man, objected to the State’s use of peremptory challenges to remove seven black venirepersons from the jury. Powers’ objections, which were based on

Question

Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1 sections 10 and 16 of the Ohio Constitution allow a criminal defendant to make objections to race-based exclusions of jurors by the State during the jury selection process if the defendant and the jurors are of different races?

CONCLUSION

Yes. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy delivered the opinion of the 7-2 majority. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the prosecution is prohibited from excluding an unbiased and qualified juror based on the person’s race regardless of the race of the defendant. Although an individual does not have the right to sit on a jury, every citizen has the right not to be deprived of the opportunity to participate in this aspect of civil life. The Court also held that a criminal defendant has the right to raise objections on racial discrimination when excluding certain potential jurors because it could cause potential injury to the defendant. The defendant must feel that he is receiving a fair trial and that the integrity of the judicial system is upheld. Therefore the defendant, as well as the juror, has the right to eliminate racial discrimination in the courtroom and the color of his skin is irrelevant to these objections of racial discrimination.

Case Information

  • Citation: 499 US 400 (1991)
  • Argued: Oct 9, 1990
  • Decided Apr 1, 1991