Archive | Batson

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Supreme Court Debrief: Flowers v. Mississippi

In Flowers v. Mississippi, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that death-row inmate Curtis Flowers’ criminal trial was affected by racial discrimination.  You can read more about the case here.

Georgetown Professors Abbe Smith and Vida Johnson of Georgetown Law’s Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic, two career criminal defense attorneys, have recorded a video exploring the Flowers case, its implications and how criminal defenders and prosecutors should approach jury selection going forward.

You can watch the video here.…

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Monday, June 24th, 2019

The Supreme Court reverses death sentence for State inmate because of violations of Batson v. Kentucky (proscribing racially based exercises of peremptory challenges in jury selection): Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572, __S.Ct. __, 2019 WL 2552489 (June 21, 2019).

In Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572, __U.S.__ , 2019 WL 2552489  (June 21, 2019), the Court reversed a death sentence because of a violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), which prohibits the racially discriminatory use of peremptory challenges.

Curtis Flowers was tried in six separate trials, by the “same lead prosecutor” for an offense that occurred in 1996. The first trial was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct; the second and third trials involved judicial findings of Batson violations;  and after the fourth and fifth trials resulted in hung juries, in the sixth trial, the prosecutor struck five of the six black prospective jurors, and Flowers was convicted. Op. at 1-2.  In a 7-2 decision, authored by Justice Kavanagh, the Court reversed the decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court affirming the conviction.

The Court cited four critical facts that taken together required reversal. “First, in …

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Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Gender Contender

United States v. Paris, No. 08-5071-cr (2d Cir. September 17, 2010) (Jacobs, Wesley, Chin, CJJ)

This interesting Batson decision deals with gender-based peremptory challenges, a subject that the circuit has not previously discussed.


For about five years, Dennis Paris ran a multi-state prostitution ring centered in the Hartford, Connecticut, area and recruited teenage girls to work for him. He was charged with criminal sex trafficking and conspiracy offenses, and took the case to trial.

Before jury selection, his attorney notified the district court that Paris would exercise peremptory challenges primarily against women, because he believed that male jurors would be “fairer to Mr. Paris than female jurors will be.” Sure enough, after the challenges for cause were resolved, Paris used his first four peremptory challenges against women. When the government registered a Batson objection, defense counsel conceded that gender was “absolutely” one of the reasons for the strikes.

The …

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Monday, January 19th, 2009

Habeas Corpulent

Dolphy v Mantello, No. 03-2738-pr (2d Cir. January 9, 2009) (Jacobs, Hall, CJJ, Arcara, DJ)

At Seth Dolphy’s state-court criminal trial, the prosecutor exercised a peremptory challenge against the only African-American member of the jury panel, and Dolphy raised a Batson challenge. The prosecutor’s supposedly race-neutral explanation for striking the juror was that she was overweight: “[B]ased on my reading and past experience, … heavy-set people tend to be very sympathetic toward any defendant.” When the judge asked him if he was “saying that race had nothing to do with it,” the prosecutor agreed. The defense again objected, noting that the same prosecutor had allowed overweight people on juries in other cases. The judge sustained the strike, holding that “I’m satisfied that is a race neutral explanation, so the strike stands.”

Once his conviction was affirmed in the New York State courts, Dolphy filed a pro se § 2254 petition …

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Friday, June 6th, 2008


United States v. Todd, No. 05-5525-cr (2d Cir. June 5, 2008) (per curiam)

In this “reverse-Batson” decision, the court upheld the district court’s decision to re-seat a white juror against whom the defendants, all members of minority groups, had exercised a peremptory challenge. The court found no clear error in the district court’s conclusion that the challenge was based on the juror’s race.

Specifically, the circuit agreed that the defendants’ concern that the brother of the juror’s fiancé was a police officer was unjustified because (1) the juror said that this would not affect her and (2) the defense had accepted a Latino juror whose brother was a retired undercover officer. The court also rejected the defendants’ claim that the juror’s residence in Westchester County was a basis for the challenge. That juror lived in Yonkers, which the defense conceded was “more like the Bronx than Westchester” and, in any …

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