Payton v. Kearse

Decision Date02 October 1996
Docket NumberNo. 24740,24740
Citation495 S.E.2d 205,329 S.C. 51
PartiesEdgar PAYTON, Respondent, v. Tina L. KEARSE, Petitioner. . Heard
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Lewis C. Lanier, of Horger, Horger & Lanier, Orangeburg; and Paul W. Owen, Jr., of Lourie & Safran, Columbia, for petitioner.

Daniel W. Williams, of Bedingfield & Williams, Barnwell; and J. Paul Detrick, of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth & Detrick, Hampton, for respondent.

BURNETT, Justice:

We granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals opinion in Payton v. Kearse, 319 S.C. 188, 460 S.E.2d 220 (Ct.App.1995). We reverse.


Edgar Payton (Respondent) brought a negligence action against Tina Kearse (Petitioner) for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. The jury returned a verdict of $700,000 actual damages in favor of respondent.

Petitioner appealed alleging that the trial court erred in failing to find respondent's peremptory strikes during jury selection were racially motivated and by refusing to admit the testimony of her expert witness, Varner Richards. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Id.


I. Did respondent use his peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory manner in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986); and State v. Adams, 322 S.C. 114, 470 S.E.2d 366 (1996)?

II. Did the lower courts err in failing to grant the petitioner a new trial based upon the exclusion of the testimony of Varner Richards?

I. Batson Challenge

Petitioner challenges respondent's use of his peremptory strikes under Batson supra, claiming the strikes were racially motivated. We agree.

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the use of peremptory strikes in a discriminatory manner. Id. This prohibition applies in civil cases as well as criminal cases. Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614, 111 S.Ct. 2077, 114 L.Ed.2d 660 (1991); Chavous v. Brown, 299 S.C. 398, 385 S.E.2d 206 (Ct.App.1989), rev'd, 302 S.C. 308, 396 S.E.2d 98 (1990), vacated, 501 U.S. 1202, 111 S.Ct. 2791, 115 L.Ed.2d 966, aff'd on remand, 305 S.C. 387, 409 S.E.2d 356 (1991). A party has standing to object to race-based peremptory strikes of venire persons even if the challenging party and the potential juror are not of the same race. Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 111 S.Ct. 1364, 113 L.Ed.2d 411 (1991); State v. Dyar, 317 S.C. 77, 452 S.E.2d 603 (1994).

Both petitioner and respondent are black. Respondent exercised all of his peremptory strikes to remove prospective white jurors. Petitioner requested a Batson hearing. After hearing respondent's reasons for striking the jurors, the trial court declared the reasons race-neutral and found respondent had not violated Batson. We conclude the trial court erred in finding the reason offered to strike Juror 18 to be race-neutral on its face.

Recently, our Court adopted the standard delineated by the United States Supreme Court in Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995), for analyzing a Batson challenge. Adams, supra. First, the trial judge must hold a Batson hearing when members of a cognizable racial group or gender are struck and the opposing party requests a hearing. The second step of the analysis requires the proponent of the strike to offer a race-neutral explanation. Unless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the proponent's explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race-neutral. In the third step, the opponent of the strike must show that the race-neutral explanation given was mere pretext. Pretext generally will be established by showing that similarly situated members of another race were seated on the jury. Under some circumstances, the race-neutral explanation given by the proponent may be so fundamentally implausible that the judge may determine, at the third step of the analysis, that the explanation was mere pretext even without a showing of disparate treatment. Purkett, supra; Adams, supra.

Here, we need not go beyond the second step of the analysis. Respondent's counsel offered the following reason for striking Juror 18:

The juror number 18, she is known as [a] very opinionated person, your Honor, who expresses herself. We knew if she got on that jury she was not gone [sic] budge one way or the other, that she was gone [sic] get her way or no way. That was our opinion from what we had learned. Her family has--Mr. Lanier has talked about the number of people in trouble. She herself has not had any problems but she comes from a family that's had some problems with the law and she's kind of what we refer to as a redneck variety, so to speak, and that was the reason we struck her and, as you know, your Honor, I was concerned with her family, whether she had any problems with me or the law because some members of her family might have problems with the law.

(emphasis added).

The term "redneck" is a racially derogatory term applied exclusively to members of the white race. 1 The use of the term "redneck" is not a valid race-neutral reason to strike a potential juror, and therefore, the strike is facially discriminatory and violates Batson. See Wilkerson v. Texas, 493 U.S. 924, 110 S.Ct. 292, 107 L.Ed.2d 272 (1989) (dissent from denial of petition for certiorari) (an explanation tainted by an impermissible factor is not neutral).

Respondent argues "redneck" is a descriptive term used to describe a person with a particular bias and is not discriminatory against the white race because these persons, like members of the KKK or Black Panthers, are struck because of their attitudes and prejudices. However, the term encompasses a broader group than just persons with certain undesirable characteristics. It stereotypes a subgroup of the white race without any evidence that each member of the group actually possesses these attitudes. Unlike members of the KKK or Black Panthers who voluntarily associate with others who hold the same prejudicial beliefs, "rednecks" have no such common prejudices or attitudes. A "redneck" should not be excluded from serving on a jury because of this stereotype.

Respondent also claims the context in which the term "redneck" was used should be considered when determining if the strike violated Batson. The context becomes relevant at the third step of the analysis when the court determines if a race-neutral reason was pretext. Here, because the reason offered was not race-neutral on its face, we need not reach the third step of the analysis.

Respondent further argues that by finding use of the term "redneck" violated Batson, we are preventing a party from obtaining a fair trial because a party cannot strike potential jurors who are biased against the party. However, the right to serve on a jury and not to be discriminated against because of race or gender belongs to the potential juror, not the party. Edmonson, supra. Our holding only prevents a party from striking a juror based on a racially stereotypical reason. A party may still strike a juror based on actual known biases of a particular juror.

Further, we reject the dual motivation analysis employed by the Court of Appeals to uphold the strike. 2 In State v. Gill, 319 S.C. 283, 460 S.E.2d 412 (Ct.App.1995) (Cureton, J., dissenting), decision vacated, 327 S.C. 253, 489 S.E.2d 478 (1997), 3 the South Carolina Court of Appeals reviewed the prosecution's strike of a black female juror in a criminal case. The prosecution had offered two reasons for the strike: (1) the juror had requested a hardship excuse; and (2) the juror lived on the same street as the defendant and the prosecution felt it was possible she might realize she knew the defendant. Because the prosecution allowed a white juror who had requested a hardship excuse to be seated, the trial court expressed concern that the first explanation for the strike of the black female was pretextual. However, the trial judge denied the defendant's Batson motion, concluding the second reason given for the strike was racially neutral notwithstanding the potential invalidity of the first reason. Id.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals assumed for purposes of analysis that the prosecution's first reason was pretextual. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals concluded the prosecution had not violated Batson, reasoning that "an action motivated in part by an impermissible reason will not necessarily be invalid if the same action would have been taken in the absence of the impermissible motivation." Id. at 289, 460 S.E.2d at 416 (citing Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 97 S.Ct. 568, 50 L.Ed.2d 471 (1977)).

Judge Cureton concurred in part and dissented in part. He first observed the "sole Batson issue before [the Court of Appeals] is whether the racially neutral explanation is sufficient to sustain the peremptory strike of the black juror even if the hardship explanation was, in fact, pretextual and constitutionally infirm." Id. at 294, 460 S.E.2d at 419. After noting the ultimate goal of Batson and its progeny is the elimination of discriminatory jury selection practices, Judge Cureton opined:

Based on the above discussed precedential underpinnings of the Batson decision and its underlying rationale, I am of the opinion that even though the prosecutor may have given one racially neutral explanation, the racially motivated explanation, as evidenced by the finding of pretext, vitiated the legitimacy of the entire jury selection procedure. Once it is found that the exercise of even one peremptory challenge is racially motivated, this in and of itself gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose and violates the mandates of Batson, which explicitly prohibits the State from exercising strikes in a racially discriminatory manner. To hold otherwise, I believe, completely guts the notion of pretext, and offends the policies underlying Batson.

Id. at...

To continue reading

Request your trial
67 cases
  • People v. Douglas
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • May 3, 2018
    ...factor directly conflicts with the purpose of Batson and taints the entire jury selection process"]; Payton v. Kearse (1998) 329 S.C. 51, 59, 495 S.E.2d 205, 210 ["Once a discriminatory reason has been uncovered—either inherent or pretextual—this reason taints the entire jury selection proc......
  • State v. Robinson
    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • May 24, 2022
    ...pretextual—this reason taints any other neutral reason for the strike." (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Payton v. Kearse , 329 S.C. 51, 495 S.E.2d 205, 210 (1998) )).¶24 In sum, it was not clear error for the trial court to credit the State's stated concerns as race-neutral and,......
  • Kesser v. Cambra
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • December 16, 2004
    ...McCormick v. State, 803 N.E.2d 1108, 1112-13 (Ind.2004); State v. Lucas, 199 Ariz. 366, 18 P.3d 160, 163 (2001); Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 495 S.E.2d 205, 210 (S.C.1998); Rector v. State, 213 Ga.App. 450, 444 S.E.2d 862, 865 (Ga.App.1994); but see Guzman v. State, 85 S.W.3d 242, 248 n.......
  • Hundley ex rel. Hundley v. Rite Aid
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • February 28, 2000 within the trial judge's sound discretion, whose decision will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 495 S.E.2d 205 (1998). Rule 703, SCRE, reads as The facts or data in the particular case upon which an expert bases an opinion or inference may be ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Criminal Law
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 51-4, April 2022
    • Invalid date
    ...established a prima face case) 26. Batson, 476 U.S. at 96. [27] Hernandez v. N.Y., 500 U.S. 352, 360 (1991). [28] Payton v. Kearse, 495 S.E.2d 205, 208 (S.C. 1998) (where counsel sought to strike a juror because she was a "redneck," counsel's explanation was "facially discriminatory" and vi......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT