Powers v. Ohio
Decided on Apr. 1, 1991; 499 US 400


The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the use of
peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors solely on the basis of race.

I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Discrimination, Jury Selection

B. Legal Question Presented:

Based on the Equal Protection Clause, may a white defendant object to the prosecution's peremptory challenges of black prospective jurors?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"During jury selection at his state court trial for aggravated murder and related offenses, petitioner Powers, a white man, objected to the State's use of peremptory challenges to remove seven black [prospective jurors] from the jury.

Powers' objections, which were based on Batson v. Kentucky, were overruled, the impaneled jury convicted him on several counts, and he was sentenced to prison. On appeal, he contended that the State's discriminatory use of peremptories violated, inter alia, the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, and that his own race was irrelevant to the right to object to the peremptories. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction."

On certiorari, the US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Ohio.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Robert L. Lane, by appointment of the Court, 494 U.S. 1054 , argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the brief were Randall M. Dana, Gregory L. Ayers, and Jill E. Stone.

Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by Barbara D. Underwood, Steven R. Shapiro, Julius LeVonne Chambers, and Charles Stephen Ralston; and for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation by Kent S. Scheidegger.

Harry R. Reinhart and Kathleen S. Aynes filed a brief for the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as amicus curiae. [499 U.S. 400, 402].
Alan Craig Travis argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief was Michael Miller.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

The US Supreme Court held that "Under the Equal Protection Clause, a criminal defendant may object to race-based exclusions of jurors through peremptory challenges whether or not the defendant and the excluded jurors share the same race.

The Equal Protection Clause prohibits a prosecutor from using the State's peremptory challenges to exclude otherwise qualified and unbiased persons from the petit jury solely by reason of their race. Contrary to Ohio's contention, racial identity between the objecting defendant and the excluded jurors does not constitute a relevant precondition for a...challenge...

A criminal defendant has standing to raise the third-party equal protection claims of jurors excluded by the prosecution because of their race..."

The US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals of Ohio judgment.

Justice Vote: 7 Pro vs. 2 Con
  • Kennedy, A. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Blackmun, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stevens, J. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • O'Connor, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Souter, D. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Scalia, A. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Ohio; the Supreme Court reversed in a 7-2 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.