On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding the “demeanor-based” rejection of a potential juror in a death penalty case. Thaler v. Haynes involves a defense objection under Batson v. Kentucky (pdf) (1986) to the prosecution’s peremptory strike of a potential juror; Batson forbids striking potential jurors from a panel solely based on race.

The prosecution explained that it had struck the potential juror because she appeared not to be serious during questioning and her “body language” belied her “true feeling” about the death penalty, according to the opinion. The state trial court judge upheld the strike because the prosecution provided a race-neutral reason, but that judge did not observe the potential juror’s behavior.

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