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Name: Miller-El v. Dretke
Case #: Mar-59
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/13/2005
Subsequent History: x-cite 125 S.Ct. 2317

Miller-El was entitled to prevail on his Batson claim and therefore entitled to habeas relief where Texas prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove 10 of the 11 black venire members during jury selection for his capital trial. Exclusion of 91% of the eligible black panelists was unlikely to have been produced by happenstance. Reasons given for striking black panelists applied to white panelists who were not stricken. The late stage decision to accept one black panel member willing to impose the death penalty did not neutralize the early stage decision to reject one. Batson provides the opportunity for a prosecutor to explain the striking of a juror and requires the judge to assess the plausibility of the reason. But it is not an exercise in thinking up any rational basis. Here, the prosecution’s broader patterns of practice during jury selection supported the case for discrimination. The state’s attempt at a race-neutral explanation did not explain what they did. The selection process was replete with evidence that prosecutors were selecting and rejecting potential jurors because of race. The state court’s contrary conclusion was unreasonable as well as erroneous. J. Thomas dissented.