Allen Snyder v. Louisiana
Batson Claims, Jury Selection, Peremptory Challenges, Discriminatory Intent, AEDPA
Petitioner Allen Snyder, a black man, was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, for the fatal stabbing of his wife's male companion. Prior to trial, the prosecutor reported to the media that this was his "O.J. Simpson case." At trial, the prosecutor peremptorily struck all five African Americans who had survived cause challenges and then, over objection, urged the resulting all-white jury to impose death because this case was like the O.J. Simpson case, where the defendant "got away with it." On initial review, a majority of the Louisiana Supreme Court ignored probative evidence of discriminatory intent, including the prosecutor's O.J. Simpson remarks and argument, and denied Mr. Snyder's Batson claims by a 5-2 vote.
The Supreme Court directed the court below to reconsider Mr. Snyder's Batson claims in light of Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231 (2005). See Snyder v. Louisiana, 545 U.S. 1137 (2005). On remand, a bare majority adhered to its prior holding, once again disregarding substantial evidence establishing discriminatory intent, including the prosecutor's references to the O.J. Simpson case, the totality of strikes against African-American jurors, and evidence showing a pattern of practice of race-based peremptory challenges by the prosecutor's office. In addition, the majority imposed a new and higher burden on Mr. Snyder, asserting that Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333 (2006), permitted reversal only if "a reasonable factfinder [would] necessarily conclude the prosecutor lied" about the reasons for his strikes. Three justices, including the author of the original opinion, dissented, finding the prosecutor's reference to the O.J. Simpson case in argument to an all-white jury, made "against a backdrop of the issues of race and prejudice," supported the conclusion that the State improperly exercised peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory fashion.
The Louisiana Supreme Court's consideration of Mr. Snyder's Batson claims on remand from the Supreme Court raises the following important questions:
Marcia A. Widder
The Capital Appeals Project
New Orleans, LA
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