Batson v. Kentucky

In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the Supreme Court established a three-part test to determine if a prosecutor has engaged in racial discrimination in the selection of jurors. First, defendant must establish a prima facie case that a peremptory challenge was exercised on the basis of race. If the defendant fulfills that threshold requirement, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to offer a racially neutral explanation to rebut defendant's prima facie case. Id. The trial court must then determine whether defendant has proved purposeful discrimination. Id. The Supreme Court has described the factors to be considered in the evaluation of whether defendant established a prima facie case. Braxton, 352 N.C. at 180, 531 S.E.2d at 441. Among the relevant factors is whether the prosecutor used a disproportionate number of peremptory challenges to strike African-American jurors. Id. The court may also consider the prosecutor's questions and statements made during jury selection. Braxton, 352 N.C. at 180-81, 531 S.E.2d at 441. Finally, the Court may look at the race of the defendant, victims and witnesses. Id. The United States Supreme Court held that "the Equal Protection Clause forbids the prosecutor to challenge potential jurors solely on account of their race." Thus, Batson established that a criminal defendant can demonstrate a violation of his equal protection rights pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by showing that the State's use of peremptory challenges at the defendant's trial was used to intentionally exclude members of the defendant's race. Batson delineated a three-step procedure for evaluating claims of racial discrimination in peremptory strikes: "'First, the opponent of the strike must make a prima facie showing of discrimination. Second, the proponent must give a race-neutral explanation for the challenge. Third, the trial court must determine whether, under all the circumstances, the opponent has proven purposeful racial discrimination.'" The Court held that the use of peremptory challenges by the state to strike venirepersons solely because they are members of the defendant's race violates the equal protection clause of the federal constitution. Id. at 89. Batson established a three step procedure for the defendant in a criminal case to challenge the state's use of peremptory challenges to exclude jurors because of their race. Id. at 96-98. First, the defendant must establish a prima facie case of discrimination by the state. Id. at 96. The state then must proffer a neutral explanation for the peremptory challenge. Id. at 97. Finally, the defendant must establish purposeful discrimination by the state. Id. at 93. The court here concluded that because the petitioner had failed to meet the first requirement of Batson, the state was not required to give a neutral explanation for its peremptory challenge. The petitioner was convicted and thereafter sentenced to a forty-five year term of imprisonment. The United States Supreme Court held that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits a prosecutor from using peremptory challenges to strike African-Americans from an African-American defendant's jury simply because the jurors are African-American. The burden initially is on the defendant to make out a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination. Batson, supra at 93-94; People v. Barker, 179 Mich App 702, 705; 446 NW2d 549 (1989). In deciding whether the defendant has made a requisite showing of purposeful discrimination, a court must consider all relevant circumstances, including whether there is a pattern of strikes against African-American jurors, and the questions and statements made by the prosecutor during voir dire and in exercising his challenges. Batson, supra at 97. If a defendant makes such a prima facie showing of a discriminatory purpose, the burden shifts to the prosecutor, who must articulate a racially neutral explanation for challenging African-American jurors. Id. Mere statements of good faith or denial of a discriminatory motive are insufficient; rather, the prosecutor must articulate a neutral explanation related to the particular case being tried. Id. at 98. The trial court must then determine if the defendant has established "purposeful discrimination." Id.