CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sarma on Peremptory Challenges

Bidish Sarma  (The Justice Center's Capital Appeals Project) has posted Response to 'Snyder v. Lousiana: Continuing the Historical Trend Towards Increased Scrutiny of Peremptory Challenges' (Michigan Law Review First Impressions, Vol. 109, p. 42, 2010) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

John P. Bringewatt's recent note makes several important observations about the Supreme Court's opinion in Snyder v. Louisiana. Although he provides reasonable support for the claim that Snyder represents a sea change in Batson jurisprudence, the US Supreme Court's fresh opinion in Thaler v. Haynes (rendered on February 22, 2010) reads the Snyder majority opinion narrowly and suggests the possibility that Snyder is not as potent as it should be. The Haynes per curiam's guarded reading of Snyder signals the need for courts to continue to conduct the bird's-eye cumulative analysis that the Court performed in Miller-El v. Dretke [hereinafter Miller-El II]. If lawyers challenging discriminatory peremptory strikes and trial courts replicate Snyder's single-juror approach but ignore concomitant Miller-El circumstantial evidence of intentional discrimination, Snyder may (counterintuitively) sap Miller-El II of its on-the-ground transformative potential. In other words, lawyers should not rely too much on the "more individualized focus" observed and applauded by the author because a narrow framing of a Batson challenge in the Snyder opinion's image (rather than a wider framing with a focus on the Miller-El factors) may fail in front of courts that view Snyder differently than does Bringewatt. A slightly different interpretation of the historical arc of the relevant cases and a critical reconsideration of Snyder's circumstances foreshadow the outcome in Haynes and reveal nuances that suggest problems with Bringewatt's theory.

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