505 U.S. 42 (1992), 91-372, Georgia v. McCollum

Docket Nº:No. 91-372
Citation:505 U.S. 42, 112 S.Ct. 2348, 120 L.Ed.2d 33, 60 U.S.L.W. 4574
Party Name:Georgia v. McCollum
Case Date:June 18, 1992
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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505 U.S. 42 (1992)

112 S.Ct. 2348, 120 L.Ed.2d 33, 60 U.S.L.W. 4574

Georgia

v.

McCollum

No. 91-372

United States Supreme Court

June 18, 1992

Argued Feb. 26, 1992

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA

Syllabus

Respondents, who are white, were charged with assaulting two African-Americans. Before jury selection began, the trial judge denied the prosecution's motion to prohibit respondents from exercising peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed, distinguishing Edmonson v. Leesvlle Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 -- in which this Court held that private litigant cannot exercise peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory manner -- on the ground that it involved civil litigants, rather than criminal defendants.

Held: The Constitution prohibits a criminal defendant from engaging in purposeful discrimination on the ground of race in the exercise of peremptory challenges. Pp. 46-59.

(a) The exercise of racially discriminatory peremptory challenges offends the Equal Protection Clause when the offending challenges are made by the State, Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79; Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 79, and, in civil cases when they are made by private litigants, Edmonson, supra. Whether the prohibition should be extended to discriminatory challenges made by a criminal defendant turns upon the following four-factor analysis. Pp. 46-48.

(b) A criminal defendant's racially discriminatory exercise of peremptory challenges inflicts the harms addressed by Batson. Regardless of whether it is the State or the defense who invokes them, discriminatory challenges harm the individual juror by subjecting him to open and public racial discrimination, and harm the community by undermining public confidence in this country's system of justice. Pp. 48-50.

(c) A criminal defendant's exercise of peremptory challenges constitutes state action for purposes of the Equal Protection Clause under the analytical framework summarized in Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922. Respondents' argument that the adversarial relationship between the defendant and the prosecution negates a peremptory challenge's governmental character is rejected. Unlike other actions taken in support of a defendant's defense, the exercise of a peremptory challenge determines the composition of a governmental body. The fact that a defendant exercises a peremptory challenge to further his interest in acquittal does not conflict with a finding of state action, since

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whenever a private actor's conduct is deemed fairly attributable to the government, it is likely that private motives will have animated the actor's decision. Pp. 50-55.

(d) The State has third-party standing to challenge a defendant's discriminatory use of peremptory challenges, since it suffers a concrete injury when the fairness and the integrity of its own judicial process is undermined; since, as the representative of all its citizens, it has a close relation to potential jurors; and since the barriers to suit by an excluded juror are daunting. See Powers, 499 U.S. at 411, 413, 414. Pp. 55-56.

(e) A prohibition against the discriminatory exercise of peremptory challenges does not violate a criminal defendant's constitutional rights. It is an affront to justice to argue that the right to a fair trial includes the right to discriminate against a group of citizens based upon their race. Nor does the prohibition violate the Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel, since counsel can normally explain the reasons for peremptory challenges without revealing strategy or confidential communication, and since neither the Sixth Amendment nor the attorney-client privilege gives a defendant the right to carry out through counsel an unlawful course of conduct. In addition, [112 S.Ct. 2351] the prohibition does not violate the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by a jury that is impartial with respect to both parties. Removing a juror whom the defendant believes harbors racial prejudice is different from exercising a peremptory challenge to discriminate invidiously against jurors on account of race. Pp. 57-59.

261 Ga. 473, 405 S.E.2d 688 (1991), reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, STEVENS, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, C.J., filed a concurring opinio, post, p. 59. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 60. O'CONNOR, J., and SCALIA, J., filed dissenting opinions, post, p. 69.

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BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

Justice BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

For more than a century, this Court consistently and repeatedly has reaffirmed that racial discrimination by the State in jury selection offends the Equal Protection Clause. See, e.g., Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1880). Last Term, this Court held that racial discrimination in a civil litigant's exercise of peremptory challenges also violates the Equal Protection Clause. See Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991). Today, we are asked to decide whether the Constitution prohibits a criminal defendant from engaging in purposeful racial discrimination in the exercise of peremptory challenges.

I

On August 10, 1990, a grand jury sitting in Dougherty County, Ga., returned a six-count indictment charging respondents with aggravated assault and simple battery. See App. 2. The indictment alleged that respondents beat and assaulted Jerry and Myra Collins. Respondents are white; the alleged victims are African-Americans. Shortly after the events, a leaflet was widely distributed in the local African-American community reporting the assault and urging community residents not to patronize respondents' business.

Before jury selection began, the prosecution moved to prohibit respondents from exercising peremptory challenges in

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a racially discriminatory manner. The State explained that it expected to show that the victims' race was a factor in the alleged assault. According to the State, counsel for respondents had indicated a clear intention to use peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory manner, arguing that the circumstances of their case gave them the right to exclude African-American citizens from participating as jurors in the trial. Observing that 43 percent of the county's population is African-American, the State contended that, if a statistically representative panel is assembled for jury selection, 18 of the potential 42 jurors would be African-American.[1] With 20 peremptory challenges, respondents therefore would be able to remove all the African-American potential jurors.[2] Relying on Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the Sixth Amendment, and the Georgia Constitution, the State sought an order providing that, if it succeeded in making out a prima facie case of racial discrimination by respondents, the [112 S.Ct. 2352] latter would be required to articulate a racially neutral explanation for peremptory challenges.

The trial judge denied the State's motion, holding that

[n]either Georgia nor federal law prohibits criminal defendants from exercising peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory manner.

App. 14. The issue was certified for immediate appeal. Id. at 15 and 18.

The Supreme Court of Georgia, by a 4-3 vote, affirmed the trial court's ruling. State v. McCollum, 261 Ga. 473, 405 S.E.2d 688 (1991). The court acknowledged that, in Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991), this Court had found that the exercise of a peremptory challenge in a racially discriminatory manner "would constitute an impermissible injury" to the excluded juror. 261 Ga., at 473, 405 S.E.2d at 689.

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The court noted, however, that Edmonson involved private civil litigants, not criminal defendants. "Bearing in mind the long history of jury trials as an essential element of the protection of human rights," the court "decline[d] to diminish the free exercise of peremptory strikes by a criminal defendant." Ibid. Three justices dissented, arguing that Edmonson and other decisions of this Court establish that racially based peremptory challenges by a criminal defendant violate the Constitution. 261 Ga. at 473, 405 S.E.2d at 689 (Hunt, J.); id. at 475, 405 S.E.2d at 690 (Benham, J.); id. at 479, 405 S.E.2d at 693 (Fletcher, J.). A motion for reconsideration was denied. App. 60.

We granted certiorari to resolve a question left open by our prior cases -- whether the Constitution prohibits a criminal defendant from engaging in purposeful racial discrimination in the exercise of peremptory challenges.[3] 502 U.S. 937 (1991).

II

Over the last century, in an almost unbroken chain of decisions, this Court gradually has abolished race as a consideration for jury service. In Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1880), the Court invalidated a state statute providing that only white men could serve as jurors. While stating that a defendant has no right to a "petit jury composed in whole or in part of persons of his own race," id. 100 U.S. at 305, the Court held that a defendant does have the right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected by nondiscriminatory criteria. See also Neal v. Delaware, 103 U.S. 370,

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397; Norris v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 587, 599 (1935) (State cannot exclude African-Americans from jury venire on false assumption that they, as a group, are not qualified to serve as jurors).

In Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202 (1965), the Court was confronted with the question whether an African-American defendant was denied equal protection by the State's exercise of peremptory challenges to exclude members of his race from the petit jury. Id. at 209-210...

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