Snyder v. Louisiana

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In Snyder v. Louisiana, 128 S. Ct. 1203 (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death penalty based on the use of a peremptory challenge by the prosecutor to eliminate an African American juror, relying on Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The defendant was also African American.

Justice Sam Alito wrote the decision for the 7-2 Court. He said:

For present purposes, it is enough to recognize that a peremptory strike shown to have been motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent could not be sustained based on any lesser showing by the prosecution. And in light of the circumstances here -- including absence of anything in the record showing that the trial judge credited the claim that Mr. Brooks was nervous, the prosecution's description of both of its proffered explanations as "main concern[s]," App. 444, and the adverse inference noted above -- the record does not show that the prosecution would have preemptively challenged Mr. Brooks based on his nervousness alone. See Hunter, supra, at 228, 105 S. Ct. 1916, 85 L. Ed. 2d 222. Nor is there any realistic possibility that this subtle question of causation could be profitably explored further on remand at this late date, more than a decade after petitioner's trial.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented.

Petition for Certiorari

This case presents a question to the U.S. Supreme Court about habeas corpus:[1]

  • Did a prosecutor in a death penalty case improperly analogize the African-American defendant to O.J. Simpson after using his peremptory challenges to achieve an all-white jury in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986)?


  1. Snyder v. Louisiana, No. 06-10119. Certiorari granted June 25, 2007. Ruling below: 942 So.2d 484 (La. 2006).