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Name: Rivera v. Illinois
Case #: Jul-95
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 03/31/2009
Subsequent History: cross cites: 129 S.Ct. 1446; 173 L.Ed.2d 320

Where all jurors were qualified and unbiased, the denial of a peremptory challenge was not a denial of due process. During Rivera’s murder trial, his counsel sought to use a peremptory challenge to excuse an African-American female, Gomez, who was the second African-American female he had excused, and the third woman. The trial court rejected his challenge on Batson grounds. The jury, with Gomez as foreperson, convicted Rivera of first-degree murder. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the peremptory challenge should have been allowed, but that it was not reversible error. The United States Supreme Court affirmed, holding that provided all jurors seated are qualified and unbiased, the Due Process Clause does not require automatic reversal of a conviction because of the trial court’s good-faith error in denying a peremptory challenge to a juror. States are free to decide that the mistaken denial of a peremptory challenge is reversible per se, but they may also conclude, as Illinois did here, that the improper seating of a competent and unbiased juror is harmless error.