Louisiana Supreme Court Undermines Batson
Posted: 16 Apr 2016
Date Written: March 11, 2016
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed stating that no state shall deprive “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The United States Supreme Court first held that the Fourteenth Amendment applied to jury selection in in 1880 in Strauder v. West Virginia. In Strauder the court held that West Virginia violated the defendant’s rights when the State’s attorney excluded African Americans from jury service. The Court further held that a defendant does not have the right to a jury including members of his own race. Later in a 1986 case, Batson v. Kentucky, the United States Supreme Court revisited its application of the Fourteenth Amendment application to jury selection, particularly when striking potential members due to race. In Batson, the Court held that when a prosecutor uses a challenge to strike a potential juror in violation of equal protection, the State must produce a non-discriminatory reason for the challenge.
In 1989, the Louisiana Supreme Court adopted the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Batson which later became codified in the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure article 795 by the Legislature. A Louisiana appellate court established the Knighten Rule which held that the State must turn over any information upon the request of the defendant in regards to the criminal record of the prospective jurors. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court recently abrogated the Knighten Rule in State v. Bender and held that a mere assertion of the potential juror’s prior criminal conviction is sufficient to strike a potential juror. I argue that by abrogating the Knighten rule, the Louisiana Supreme Court is in direct opposition to the Supreme Court’s mandate under Batson that requires that a challenger to produce some racially neutral-explanation that is “clear reasonable, specific, legitimate, and related to the particular to the case at bar.”
Keywords: Batson, Louisiana Evidence, Knighten Rule, Vior Dire
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