Flowers v. Mississippi

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: June 21, 2019
  • Case #: 17-9572
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GORSUCH, J., joined as to Parts I, II, and III.
  • Full Text Opinion

A state may not use preemptory challenges that are substantially motivated by discriminatory intent to strike prospective jurors in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and United States Supreme Court precedent.

Petitioner, a black man, stood trial for the murders of four people a total of six times. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned several of the previous convictions for prosecutorial misconduct. Among other instances of misconduct, the State of Mississippi used preemptory strikes to dismiss prospective black jurors and the court found these strikes to be racially motivated. At the sixth trial, the State used preemptory strikes to dismiss five of the six prospective black jurors. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and upheld it on remand after appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court applied the rule from Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), that prohibits a state from racial discrimination in a preemptory challenge of a prospective juror in a criminal trial. The Court examined four categories of evidence to find a clear pattern of racial discrimination over the course of Petitioner’s trials. The Court reviewed the large disparity in the treatment, questioning, and number of black prospective jurors dismissed compared to white jurors in each trial. The Court specifically found clear error in the dismissal of one black prospective juror at the sixth trial. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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