Is Striking a Juror Solely on the Basis of Race Legal ?

In State v. Neil, 457 So. 2d 481, 486 (Fla. 1984), this Court held that the exercise of a peremptory challenge solely on the basis of race violates the right of both the defendant and the State to trial by an impartial jury under article I, section 16 of the Florida Constitution. This Court delineated a test for trial courts to use in determining whether the exercise of a peremptory challenge is a pretext for racial discrimination. Subsequently, the United States Supreme Court, in its landmark decision in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986), held that "exclusion of black citizens from service as jurors constitutes a primary example of the evil the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to cure." Id. at 85. Significantly, the Supreme Court stated that the prosecutor could not justify the peremptory challenge merely by denying that he had a discriminatory motive or affirming his good faith in making individual selections. If these general assertions were accepted as rebutting the defendant's prima facie case, the Equal Protection Clause would be but a vain and illusory requirement. Id. at 98.