Law: Jurors and Racial Bias

James Kirkland Batson is black, and the Kentucky jurors who convicted him in 1984 of burglary and receipt of stolen goods were all white. The prosecutor had excluded four blacks from the jury with peremptory challenges, which have long been exercised without any explanation required. But last week in an important 7-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court reined in the practice. Justice Lewis Powell, writing for the majority, observed that intentional racial bias denies "the protection that a trial by jury is intended to secure"--a jury of one's peers. So the court changed the rules. Previously, a black defendant alleging the biased...

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