Batson Challenge

In criminal court, every defendant is granted a speedy and public trial with an impartial jury of his or her own peers. What does an impartial jury of his or her own peers necessarily mean? The 6th amendment of the United States constitution doesn’t exactly state that a person is entitled to a jury of his or her own peers. But it does entitle every American a jury that will not be prejudice in any way. This premise was of course tested in a court of law.
In the case of Batson v. Kentucky, James Kirkland Batson was an African American male convicted of burglary in a Kentucky circuit court. Whether Batson was guilty or innocent wasn’t the big problem. Rather the problem lay in the jury selection process, (voir dire). Peremptory challenge gives each the prosecution and defense six selections towards the removal of potential jury candidates. However, the prosecution abused this power by removing all potential African American jury candidates and forming a strictly white jury. Batson was ultimately convicted but appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court on the grounds that the jury selection violated his 6th and 14th amendment rights. The court ruled in a 7-2 decision that a defendant must ‘make a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination’. A prima facie case for racial discrimination by jury selection relies solely on the record of one’s case.
With this comes the Batson challenge. The Supreme Court set forth the following steps for deciding whether a prosecutor has improperly exercised his right of a peremptory challenge.
The defendant first must show that he is a member of a cognizable racial group, and that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges to remove from the venire (the jury pool) members of the defendant’s race. The defendant may also rely on the fact that peremptory challenges constitute a jury selection practice that permits those to discriminate, who are of a mind to discriminate. Finally, the defendant must show that such facts and any other relevant circumstances raise an inference that the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to exclude the venire men from the petit jury on account of their race. Once the defendant makes a prima facie showing, the burden shifts to the State.
A recent Michigan Court of Appeals rules against the defendant’s motion to conduct a Batson hearing in a 2nd degree murder case involving an African American male. The prosecution released two competent, qualified African Americans from the jury pool for no apparent reason; this ruling is currently being appealed.


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