second step of this process does not demand an explanation that is persuasive, or even plausible. "At this [second] step of the inquiry, the issue is the facial validity of the prosecutor's explanation. Unless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the prosecutor's explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race neutral." Hernandez, 500 U. S., at 360 (plurality opinion); id., at 374 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment).
The Court of Appeals erred by combining Batson's second and third steps into one, requiring that the justification tendered at the second step be not just neutral but also at least minimally persuasive, i. e., a "plausible" basis for believing that "the person's ability to perform his or her duties as a juror" will be affected. 25 F. 3d, at 683. It is not until the third step that the persuasiveness of the justification becomes relevant—the step in which the trial court determines whether the opponent of the strike has carried his burden of proving purposeful discrimination. Batson, supra, at 98; Hernandez, supra, at 359 (plurality opinion). At that stage, implausible or fantastic justifications may (and probably will) be found to be pretexts for purposeful discrimination. But to say that a trial judge may choose to disbelieve a silly or superstitious reason at step three is quite different from saying that a trial judge must terminate the inquiry at step two when the race-neutral reason is silly or superstitious. The latter violates the principle that the ultimate burden of persuasion regarding racial motivation rests with, and never shifts from, the opponent of the strike. Cf. St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U. S. 502, 511 (1993).
The Court of Appeals appears to have seized on our admonition in Batson that to rebut a prima facie case, the proponent of a strike "must give a 'clear and reasonably specific' explanation of his 'legitimate reasons' for exercising the challenges," Batson, supra, at 98, n. 20 (quoting Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U. S. 248, 258 (1981)), and that the reason must be "related to the particular casePage: Index Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Next
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