Flowers v. Mississippi (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)
Juries/Batson Challenges – Courts may consider persistent patterns over the span over several cases regarding a prosecutor’s strikes of black jurors in determining whether the defendant has shown discriminatory intent.
On certiorari from a 5-4 decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court rejecting Flowers’ Batson claim, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the trial court committed clear error in finding the State’s peremptory strikes of a black juror was not motivated by discriminatory intent. Citing the persistent pattern of striking black prospective jurors throughout Flowers’ six trials, the Court held there was ample evidence that the State was motivated in substantial part by a discriminatory intent. The Court also noted that the State spent far more time questioning black prospective jurors than white ones and arbitrarily struck them for reasons equally applicable to other white prospective jurors.
Justice Alito concurred, emphasizing that this case was “likely one of a kind” and that Batson only applied given the “unique combinations of circumstances.”
Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that the State did not engage in purposeful race discrimination and that Batson was wrongly decided as a “misguided effort to remedy a general societal wrong by using the Constitution to regulate the traditionally discretionary exercise of peremptory challenges.”
On certiorari to the Supreme Court of Mississippi
Opinion by Kavanaugh, joined by Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan
Concurring Opinion by Alito
Dissenting Opinion by Thomas, joined by Gorsuch