Crittenden v. Chappell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 10-26-2015
  • Case #: 13-17327
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Circuit Judges McKeown and Berzon; Dissent by McKeown
  • Full Text Opinion

A preemptory challenge violates the Equal Protection Clause if the challenge is motivated in substantial part by race, regardless of whether the strike would have been made had race not played a role.

Steven Crittenden was convicted of two murders and sentenced to death in 1989. After his conviction, Crittenden filed a federal habeas petition, alleging that the prosecutor had excluded an African American prospective juror because of her race, which would be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court initially denied the petition because it believed the prosecutor would have made the strike on the juror even if race had not been a factor. However, according to Cook v. LaMarque, a preemptory challenge violates the Equal Protection Clause if the challenge is motivated in substantial part by race, irrespective of whether the strike would have been made had race not been a factor. On remand, the district court found that the prosecutor had in fact been motivated by race, and granted the petition. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted that there is a supreme constitutional right to a jury selection without regard to race. Therefore, discrimination by a prosecutor during the jury selection process is a violation of the United States Constitution. The panel held that the district court’s finding that the prosecutor was motivated by race was not in error based on comparative juror analysis. AFFIRMED.

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