Wednesday, May 31, 2006

S.C. Supreme Court holds erroneous granting of Batson motion to be harmless error

In State v. Rafield, the Supreme Court considered the granting of an improper Batson motion. During the initial jury selection, the defense exercised peremptory challenges against five members of the jury venire: five white females, one of whom was a potential alternate, and one white male. The petit jury selected was composed of nine males and three females. The alternates were one male and one female. The State argued that the defense had discriminatorily challenged female jurors, but the State also argued that Petitioner had discriminatorily challenged one male juror, the only male he challenged. The trial judge agreed there was a violation regarding the male juror even though the defense give a gender-neutral reason for the strike. A new jury was drawn.

The Supreme Court, however, held that any error was harmless because the second jury was not tainted by the trial judge's erroneous Batson ruling. No juror whom the defense challenged in the initial drawing was selected to serve on the trial jury. A defendant, according to the court, has no right to a particular jury.

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