Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SC Supreme Court says that dreadlocks is insufficient reason to strike juror

In McCrea v. Gheraibeh, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the denial of a Batson Motion and remanded the case for a new trial. This case arose out of an automobile accident. When three of six potential black jurors were struck, a Batson Motion was made. During the hearing, the lawyer striking the jurors stated that he struck one man with dreadlocks because he was uneasy about him. In accepting counsel’s explanation, the trial court stated that he knew both of the attorneys, was aware of their reputations in the community, and that he did not believe that the attorney would engage in racially high motivated conducted. Therefore, the trial judge accepted the “uneasiness” argument regarding the dreadlocks.

In reversing on grounds of Batson, the Supreme Court held that uneasiness over dreadlocks was not a race-neutral reason for striking someone. Regardless of their gradual infiltration into mainstream American society, the court stated that dreadlocks retained their roots as a religious and social symbol of black culture. Hence, no race-neutral reason for striking the juror was offered.

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