Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 4 (1992)

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Cite as: 505 U. S. 42 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

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 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-to-3 vote, affirmed the trial court's ruling. 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.

1 Under Georgia law, the petit jury in a felony trial is selected from a panel of 42 persons. Ga. Code Ann. 15-12-160 (1990).

2 When a defendant is indicted for an offense carrying a penalty of four or more years, Georgia law provides that he may "peremptorily challenge 20 of the jurors impaneled to try him." 15-12-165.

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