photo courtesy of creationc
The "Batson challenge" allows a lawyer to challenge the strike of a potential jury member. The challenge is based on the decision in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 70 (1986), which found it unconstitutional to strike a potential jury member on the basis of race. The Batson challenge does not require much. So long as the lawyer can articulate a non-discriminatory reason for the peremptory strike, then the strike will likely stand. A prosecutor, Steve Brand, in Travis County struck a potential jury member because she was a member of the NAACP, because she wanted to be a member of the jury, and because she had a link on her Facebook page to Negro Motorist Green Book, a book for safe travel during the Jim Crow era. Mr. Brand said he wanted to avoid an having an "activist" on the jury and would have done the same in regard to a perceived white activist.
The strike occurred during jury selection for a criminal trial. The judge granted the challenge and ordered that a new jury to be picked. But, before a new jury could be selected, the accused plead guilty.
The Travis County District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, later fired the prosecutor for his remarks – saying they were racially insensitive. To survive a Batson challenge, all the prosecutor had to do was to articulate a non-discriminatory reason for the strike. Lawyers come up with those "eye wash" reasons all the time. Surely, the Travis County prosecutor could have come up with better reasons than membership in the NAACP and appreciation of a historical book. One has to conclude that Mr. Brand was pushing his own agenda in some way.
See ABA Bar Journal report.