Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 5 (1992)

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Opinion of the Court

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." 261 Ga., at 473, 405 S. E. 2d, at 689. 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).


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., 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,

3 The Ninth Circuit recently has prohibited criminal defendants from exercising peremptory challenges on the basis of gender. United States v. De Gross, 960 F. 2d 1433 (1992) (en banc). Although the panel decision now has been vacated by the granting of rehearing en banc, a Fifth Circuit panel has held that criminal defendants may not exercise peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory manner. See United States v. Greer, 939 F. 2d 1076, rehearing granted, 948 F. 2d 934 (1991).

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