Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 16 (1992)

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

Opinion of the Court


The final question is whether the interests served by Batson must give way to the rights of a criminal defendant. As a preliminary matter, it is important to recall that peremptory challenges are not constitutionally protected fundamental rights; rather, they are but one state-created means to the constitutional end of an impartial jury and a fair trial. This Court repeatedly has stated that the right to a peremptory challenge may be withheld altogether without impairing the constitutional guarantee of an impartial jury and a fair trial. See Frazier v. United States, 335 U. S. 497, 505, n. 11 (1948); United States v. Wood, 299 U. S. 123, 145 (1936); Stilson v. United States, 250 U. S. 583, 586 (1919); see also Swain, 380 U. S., at 219.

Yet in Swain, the Court reviewed the "very old credentials," id., at 212, of the peremptory challenge and noted the "long and widely held belief that the peremptory challenge is a necessary part of trial by jury," id., at 219; see id., at 212-219. This Court likewise has recognized that "the role of litigants in determining the jury's composition provides one reason for wide acceptance of the jury system and of its verdicts." Edmonson, 500 U. S., at 630.

We do not believe that this decision will undermine the contribution of the peremptory challenge to the administration of justice. Nonetheless, "if race stereotypes are the price for acceptance of a jury panel as fair," we reaffirm today that such a "price is too high to meet the standard of the Constitution." Id., at 630. Defense counsel is limited to "legitimate, lawful conduct." Nix v. Whiteside, 475 U. S. 157, 166 (1986) (defense counsel does not render ineffective assistance when he informs his client that he would disclose the client's perjury to the court and move to withdraw from representation). It is an affront to justice to argue that a fair trial includes the right to discriminate against a group of citizens based upon their race.


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