Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322 (2003)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit

No. 01-7662. Argued October 16, 2002—Decided February 25, 2003

When Dallas County prosecutors used peremptory strikes to exclude 10 of the 11 African-Americans eligible to serve on the jury at petitioner's capital murder trial, he moved to strike the jury on the ground that the exclusions violated equal protection. Petitioner presented extensive evidence supporting his motion at a pretrial hearing, but the trial judge denied relief, finding no evidence indicating a systematic exclusion of blacks, as was required by the then-controlling precedent, Swain v. Alabama, 380 U. S. 202. Subsequently, the jury found petitioner guilty, and he was sentenced to death. While his appeal was pending, this Court established, in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U. S. 79, a three-part process for evaluating equal protection claims such as petitioner's. Upon remand from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for new findings in light of Batson, the original trial court held a hearing at which it admitted all the Swain hearing evidence and took further evidence, but concluded that petitioner failed to satisfy step one of Batson because the evidence did not even raise an inference of racial motivation in the State's use of peremptory challenges. The court also determined that the State would have prevailed on steps two and three because the prosecutors had proffered credible, race-neutral explanations for the African-Americans excluded—i. e., their reluctance to assess, or reservations concerning, imposition of the death penalty—such that petitioner could not prove purposeful discrimination. After petitioner's direct appeal and state habeas petitions were denied, he filed a federal habeas petition under 28 U. S. C. 2254, raising a Batson claim and other issues. The Federal District Court denied relief in deference to the state courts' acceptance of the prosecutors' race-neutral justifications for striking the potential jurors, and subsequently denied petitioner's 2253 application for a certificate of appealability (COA). The Fifth Circuit noted that a COA will issue "only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right," 2253(c)(2); reasoned that a petitioner must make such a "substantial showing" under the standard set forth in Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U. S. 473; de-

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