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Race-Based Peremptory Challenges: An Empirical Analysis of Litigation From the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2002-2006

NCJ Number
American Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 33 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2008 Pages: 59-68
Shaun L. Gabbidon; Leslie K. Kowal; Kareem L. Jordan; Jennifer L. Roberts; Nancy Vincenzi
Date Published
10 pages
This study examined the features of Federal litigation over the course of 5 years (2002-2006) in which it was alleged that race was used as a factor in removing a prospective juror during the voir dire jury selection process, which allows both the defense and the prosecution to exclude prospective jurors whom they believe will not decide cases fairly.
In the case of Batson v. Kentucky (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race could not be used as a factor in eliminating prospective jurors in the voir dire process. The cases examined for this study all involved claims by appellants that a prospective juror in their cases had been eliminated from sitting on the jury because of his/her race. The most significant finding was that 79 percent of the appellants lost their cases, which means that most of the peremptory challenges at issue were determined by the Federal appellate court to be race neutral. In just over 75 percent of the cases, the attorneys defending themselves against an allegation of race-based peremptory challenges claimed that their challenges were race-neutral. On the whole, the courts accepted the arguments that the peremptory challenges at issue were based on reasons other than the race of the prospective jurors. Nearly two-thirds of the persons removed from the jury pools were Black, with Latinos composing the second largest share of those removed from juries. In those cases in which the court accepted the appellant's argument that a peremptory challenge was based on race, the defense or prosecution removed a racial/ethnic minority individual from the jury pool for a reason that they did not similarly apply to a White prospective juror. Future research should include first-hand observations of the jury selection process, so as to further inform the dynamics of jury selection. 4 tables and 24 references