I have already described the process of jury selection in a previous article, so I will not repeat it here. Nevertheless, I cannot leave that subject behind without reemphasizing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).
In Batson, the SCOTUS announced a new rule prohibiting the prosecution from using its peremptory challenges to selectively exclude African Americans from serving on juries deciding cases with African American defendants. Until the SCOTUS decided Batson, prosecutors were not required to provide a reason for exercising any peremptory challenge. That finally changed with Batson when the Court held that the practice violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The SCOTUS has since extended the Batson Rule to prohibit the use of peremptory challenges by either side to selectively exclude potential jurors on the basis of gender amd religious affiliation.
Under Batson and its progeny, prosecutors and defense counsel, if challenged, will be required to explain why their apparent selective exclusion of a suspect class of jurors is not race, gender, or religious based.
They better have a good reason as Texas prosecutors found out in Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322 (2003). In that case the prosecutors claimed reasons other than race led them to exclude African American jurors. The SCOTUS rejected that claim with an analysis of the entire jury selection process establishing that the prosecutors selectively used those excuses to only exclude African American jurors.
I encourage each of you to read this landmark case and Miller-El, not only for their importance in their own right but to better understand the jury selection process that will take place in the Zimmerman case.
I expect the prosecution will challenge every peremptory challenge that the defense uses to disqualify African Americans and women. I expect the defense will challenge every prosecution peremptory challenge of Christian fundamentalists who might believe Zimmerman’s idea of God’s Plan.
[If the links do not work, go to Google Scholar and enter the names of the cases]