North Carolina Law Review

University of North Carolina School of Law

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Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Thirty Years of Disappointment: North Carolina's Remarkable Appellate Baston Record

94 N.C. L. Rev. 1957 (2016) 

 

On April 30, 1986, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Batson v. Kentucky. The opinion reiterated that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the exercise of peremptory strikes on the basis of race during jury selection. The Court provided what is now a familiar three-step framework for determining whether purposeful discrimination against minority jurors has occurred. Since its decision in Batson, the Supreme Court has continued to explore issues arising within this framework and has offered further guidance in adjudicating Batson claims. 

 

Our research examines North Carolina’s disappointing Batson record in the thirty years since the decision was handed down. In the 114 cases decided on the merits by North Carolina appellate courts, the courts have never found a substantive Batson violation where a prosecutor has articulated a reason for the peremptory challenge of a minority juror. In all of the seventy- four cases decided by the Supreme Court of North Carolina during that time, that court has never once found a substantive Batson violation. In contrast, over the past thirty years every state appellate court located in the Fourth Circuit has found at least one substantive Batson violation where the State struck a minority juror. North Carolina’s remarkable record is even more disappointing in the light of recent studies finding the existence of pervasive prosecutorial racial discrimination in North Carolina jury selection.

 

In an attempt to explain this record, this Article maintains that North Carolina courts misapply Batson jurisprudence in several important ways, namely at the first and third step of the framework. This article concludes that North Carolina courts should implement a correct application of Batson’s principles in order to provide minority defendants a fair shot at eliminating racial discrimination in jury selection at trial. 

 

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