Cite as: 514 U. S. 765 (1995)
to be tried," 476 U. S., at 98. See 25 F. 3d, at 682, 683. This warning was meant to refute the notion that a prosecutor could satisfy his burden of production by merely denying that he had a discriminatory motive or by merely affirming his good faith. What it means by a "legitimate reason" is not a reason that makes sense, but a reason that does not deny equal protection. See Hernandez, supra, at 359; cf. Burdine, supra, at 255 ("The explanation provided must be legally sufficient to justify a judgment for the defendant").
The prosecutor's proffered explanation in this case—that he struck juror number 22 because he had long, unkempt hair, a mustache, and a beard—is race neutral and satisfies the prosecution's step two burden of articulating a nondiscriminatory reason for the strike. "The wearing of beards is not a characteristic that is peculiar to any race." EEOC v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 635 F. 2d 188, 190, n. 3 (CA3 1980). And neither is the growing of long, unkempt hair. Thus, the inquiry properly proceeded to step three, where the state court found that the prosecutor was not motivated by discriminatory intent.
In habeas proceedings in federal courts, the factual findings of state courts are presumed to be correct, and may be set aside, absent procedural error, only if they are "not fairly supported by the record." 28 U. S. C. § 2254(d)(8). See Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U. S. 422, 432 (1983). Here the Court of Appeals did not conclude or even attempt to conclude that the state court's finding of no racial motive was not fairly supported by the record. For its whole focus was upon the reasonableness of the asserted nonracial motive (which it thought required by step two) rather than the genuineness of the motive. It gave no proper basis for overturning the state court's finding of no racial motive, a finding which turned primarily on an assessment of credibility, see Batson, 476 U. S., at 98, n. 21. Cf. Marshall, supra, at 434.
Accordingly, respondent's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the petition for a writ of certiorari are
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