Chances are, there are certain U.S. Supreme Court cases with which you’re familiar, even if you don’t realize that you are. If you’ve ever viewed TV police dramas, you’ve probably heard a character give a criminal suspect various instructions like, “You have the right to remain silent…” or “You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed…” These are concepts that were at the center of two rulings from that court in the 1960s. On the other hand, you may not be familiar with the phrase “voir dire” or the important of a 1986 ruling named Batson v. Kentucky, but an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney would be. This court opinion, and its impact on the jury selection process in criminal trials, continues to play an important role today.
James Batson was an African-American man standing trial for burglary in Louisville, Ky. in 1982. The rules of jury selection give each side the option to strike several potential jurors preemptively, which means for any reason at all. The prosecutor used four of his preemptive strikes to eliminate all four of the potential jurors who were African-American. The all-white jury convicted Batson. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed that conviction, ruling that allowing such a practice violated the Equal Protection Clause.
In more recent times, a man named Mark stood trial in Baltimore for several crimes related to a late-night shooting in June 2012. Mark eventually stood trial for first-degree assault and weapons charges. During the jury selection process, the prosecutor used three of their preemptory challenges to exclude African-American women under the age of 25.