U.S. Supreme Court and Racially Discriminatory Strikes

March 20, 2008

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed a brutal murder conviction yesterday concluding that the prosecutor’s peremptory strike of a black college student appeared to be racially discriminatory. In Snyder v. Louisiana, 128 S. Ct. 1203 (2008) the Court held, in a 7 – 2 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, that the trial court committed clear error in rejecting the defendant’s Batson objection to the prosecution’s peremptory strike. Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented.

The high Court reviewed the trial transcript and concluded that the two reasons proffered by the prosecution as justification for the strike (1: that the black student looked nervous, and 2: that he had a student-teaching obligation to fulfill) were pretextual. The Court observed that this prospective juror was 1 of more than 50 venire members expressing concern that jury service would interfere with work, school, family or other obligations, and therefore that the prosecutor’s explanation was implausible.