Published on: Friday, June 17, 2022

During jury selection in a murder trial of a Rhode Island man - a Black man - the only Black prosective juror was excused.

Juror 103: Judge, I work at a state hospital and I'm concerned that, if I vote guilty, I'll get blowback at work from patients who are inmates. But my fear will not affect my verdict and I can "absolutely" be a fair and impartial juror.

Prosecutor: We want to strike this juror using a peremptory challenge because Juror 103, being Black, is concerned that if he holds the Black defendant guilty, he'll get blowback at work.

Man: Objection!

Trial judge: Objection overruled. Prosecutor's reason is race-neutral. No Batson violation.

R.I. Supreme Court: Agreed. Sounds like a race-neutral explanation to us.

First Circuit: But not to us. Quite frankly, the Batson violation "leaps of the page". The prosecutor's reason was inherently discriminatory and not race-neutral. Retry the defendant within 90 days or let him go.

The case is Porter v. Coyne-Fague, 21-1333 (1st Cir. May 31, 2022).