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Name: Thaler v. Haynes
Case #: 09-273
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 02/22/2010
Subsequent History: 130 S.Ct. 1171; 175 L.Ed.2d 1003

There is no current clearly established United States Supreme Court decision holding that a demeanor-based explanation for a peremptory challenge must be rejected if the judge did not observe or cannot recall the juror’s demeanor. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in this Texas death penalty case to consider whether there is established U. S. Supreme Court decision holding that a peremptory challenge based on the juror’s perceived demeanor must be rejected if the demeanor was not observed or recalled by the judge. Here, individual juror questioning occurred before Judge Harper but Judge Wallace heard the challenges. When the prosecutor struck an African-American juror, an objection under Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 was made and the court determined a prima facie case had been made. The prosecution offered an explanation based on the juror’s demeanor and, without comment, the court found the reason to be race-neutral. On appeal, respondent argued that a trial judge who did not witness the actual voir dire cannot, as a matter of law, fairly evaluate a Batson challenge. Reviewing Batson and Snyder v. Louisiana (2008) 552 U.S. 472, the Court found that neither case stood for such a proposition. Although Snyder observed that the trial judge’s first hand observations are of great importance, it did not actually reach the issue presented here and Batson only noted that the judge must take into account all possible explanatory factors in the particular case.