Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 3 (1992)

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Opinion of the Court

Robert H. Revell, Jr., argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief was Jesse W. Walters.*

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.


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

*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation by Kent Scheidegger and Charles L. Hobson; and for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., by Julius L. Chambers, Charles Stephen Ralston, and Eric Schnapper.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers by Judy Clarke and Mario G. Conte; and for Charles J. Hynes, pro se, by Jay M. Cohen, Matthew S. Greenberg, Victor Barall, and Carol Teague Schwartzkopf.

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