A Bar to Peremptory Jury Challenges

The top court is divided by racial issues as the term winds down

The acquittal by an all-white jury in Simi Valley, Calif., of four police officers in the Rodney King case last April brought national attention to the racial composition of juries. Last week the Supreme Court held, by a 7-to-2 vote, that defendants cannot exclude people from juries on the basis of their race. The decision limits peremptory challenges, which have traditionally allowed jurors to be excluded from serving without any explanation. "Be it at the hands of the State or the defense," wrote Justice Harry Blackmun for the majority, "if a court allows jurors to be excluded because of group bias,...

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