Brief Fact Summary. This appeal was brought after the State used peremptory challenges to strike all black jurors from the trial of a black man.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Peremptory challenges are subject to the Equal Protection Clause.
It was impermissible for a prosecutor to use his challenges to exclude blacks from the jury for reasons wholly unrelated to the outcome of the particular case on trial or to deny to blacks the same right and opportunity to participate in the administration of justice enjoyed by the white population.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a party may use peremptory challenges to remove members from a jury venire who are demographically similar to the defendant.
Held. 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.
Dissent. Justice Burger, for the dissent, writes that by requiring a reason behind a challenge and requiring the state to bear the burden of proof that challenges are not in violation of Equal Protection has the effect of taking away the “peremptory” nature of the challenge.
Concurrence. Justice Marshall, in his concurrence, writes that the use of peremptory challenges to distort the jury process by exclusion on racial grounds should lead the Court to banning challenges altogether.
Discussion. The gist of this case is that, while peremptory challenges are afforded to balance the jury process, when a defendant proves that there is a possibility they are being used in violation of Equal Protection, the State must prove that the challenges are for any other “valid reason.”