Discrimination in Jury Selection

Posted on Mar 4, 2015 10:26pm EST

In Batson v. Kentucky, the United States Supreme Court held that lawyers cannot disqualify jurors from jury duty or jury service on the basis of race, gender, religion, color, or other protected categories or classes of people. In that case, the Supreme Court held that prosecutors cannot use peremptory challenges to strike African-American or black jurors simply on the basis of their race.

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How The Courts Decide If Exclusion is Discriminatory

Courts use a three-step test to determine whether peremptory challenges have been used to exclude or kick off potential jurors on the basis of race, gender, religion, color, national original, or other protected categories. First, the challenging party (usually the criminal defense lawyer) must make an initial showing of discrimination by showing facts and circumstances that the other side (usually the prosecutor) is discriminating against jurors. If the criminal defense attorney makes this initial showing, called a prima facie showing, the other side (the prosecutor) must provide a race-neutral explanation for the challenge. If they fail to provide these race-neutral explanations, then a showing of discrimination is made.

If the prosecutor does provide race-neutral explanations for challenging a potential juror, then the criminal defense attorney must show that the reasons provided by the prosecutor for challenging the potential juror are "pretextual," meaning that they are false.

If a finding of discrimination is made by the trial judge, then the potential juror who was challenged is seated on the jury, and the court can impose other penalties against the prosecutor who engaged in discrimination during jury selection.

Unfortunately, discrimination in jury selection occurs. People are convicted by a "jury of their peers" who do not include a cross-section of society.

If unlawful discrimination occurs during jury selection, a person's Federal constitutional rights are violated. If an appeals court agrees with the appellate attorney that discrimination occurred, the defendant's conviction is reversed and he will be awarded a new trial.

If you believe your trial was tainted by illegal discrimination against potential jurors on the basis of race or another impermissible reason, you may be entitled to a new trial.

Call our Orlando appeals lawyers at (888) 214-0859 for a free consultation.