With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to hear arguments in a Mississippi death row case, a New York Times article examines “When does kicking black people off juries cross a Constitutional line?”
Next month, the Supreme Court will consider whether District Attorney Doug Evans’s use of dozens of peremptory challenges — ones that do not require giving a reason — to exclude black prospective jurors violated the Constitution.
Mr. Evans’s track record is extraordinary, and the court’s ruling may be narrow. But the justices could also use the case to put some teeth into Batson v. Kentucky, a 1986 decision that made an exception to the centuries-old rule that peremptory challenges are completely discretionary and cannot be second-guessed.
In the Batson case, the court ruled that racial discrimination in jury selection was different, and it required lawyers accused of it to provide a nondiscriminatory explanation.
In 1989, when he was a law student at Yale, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote an article in The Yale Law Journal calling for vigorous scrutiny of the reasons offered for peremptory challenges where race may have played a role.
Justices will review a Mississippi high court ruling in the Curtis Flowers case that challenges Evans’s record of striking potential black jurors from the jury pool.
Flowers, on death row at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, was first convicted and sentenced to death for the 1996 murders of four employees at a furniture store, where he was formerly employed, in downtown Winona.