Flowers v. Mississippi (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

The Federal Docket

August 25, 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

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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