When a California criminal defendant’s case goes to trial, which of the potential jurors are ultimately selected to serve on a jury can be an important element of the trial. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed this notion in a recent 7-2 decision in which it overturned a defendant’s conviction for murder due to an improper jury selection.
The defendant was tried six times for the 1996 murders of four employees at a Mississippi furniture store during an armed robbery. The defendant was black and three of the four victims were white. In each trial, there were issues with the selection of the jurors. During the first two trials, the prosecuting attorney used peremptory strikes to strike every one of the black prospective jurors. The juries in both trials convicted the defendant. Those verdicts were overturned based on the prosecutorial misconduct that occurred at trial.
During the third trial, the prosecution again used all of its strikes to remove black prospective jurors. The defendant was found guilty, but the conviction was overturned again because of the improper use of the prosecution’s peremptory strikes. The fourth and fifth times the defendant was tried, the cases ended in mistrials because the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict.