Last week, a Nashville juror raised a question to the judge. The fallout from that question led to the court ordering a new trial. The Tennessean reported one juror questioned why there were not any black jurors when the men accused of the crime were black. Once the juror voiced their concerns about the lack of diversity, the court dismissed the jurors for discussing the case before the case was concluded.
The critical issue is whether there was any Batson violations. In Batson v. Kentucky, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that using peremptory challenges to exclude jurors based on race violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Here, the prosecutors used six peremptory challenges to exclude six potential jurors. five of which were black. The prosecutors expressed a race neutral reason why they excluded the black jurors. If the prosecutors can state a race neutral reason for the challenge, the challenge passes constitutional scrutiny. From the article, it appears there were race neutral reasons for the strikes. All the reasons that the prosecutors listed seems reasonable. Jury selection is not an exact science. It is sometimes based on instincts on whether someone can be fair. The court must accept the race neutral explanation so long as it is not itself discriminatory.
The Tennessee Supreme Court set the procedural rules in making and determining Batson challenges in this case.
Here is my practice tip. Write down your reasons during the jury selection process. It helps to have been thoughtful during the jury selection process. a criminal defense attorney should write down the challenges as well. You might be subject to a reverse Batson challenge. Always remember a short pencil is better than a long memory.