State of Washington v. Pierce et al

This court case is completed

In a murder case involving two defendants, the prosecutor used a peremptory challenge to remove the only black juror. The excluded juror stated several times that she could be fair and impartial. When the defense made a Batson objection to the prosecutor’s challenge, the prosecutor alleged it was not based on racial bias but instead was supported by the juror’s “pause” before answering if she could give the prosecution a fair trial, and because her brother’s experience with the criminal justice system “left a bad taste in her mouth.” ACLU-WA, the Korematsu Center, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Washington Defender Association filed an amicus brief explaining how the prosecutor’s reasons amount to an invalid peremptory challenge under the GR 37 standard (a recently adopted court rule that heightens scrutiny of bias in jury selection). The brief details how white jurors paused in answering questions too, but their pause was considered “thoughtfulness” while the African American juror’s pause was used against her. The brief also discusses the implicit racial bias in using a juror’s family’s experience with the criminal justice system against her, which the Court has recognized as being historically associated with improper discrimination in jury selection.