In one of its last decisions of 2016, the New York Court of Appeals held that skin color, in addition to race, ethnicity, and gender, can be the basis for a Batson challenge. The case arose from Queens, where Joseph Bridgeforth, an African-American man was charged with three counts of robbery. During jury selection, the prosecution used its peremptory challenges to strike several prospective jurors, including all five dark-complexioned women. In the 1986 case of Batson v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court of the United States held that peremptory challenges could not be used to dismiss potential jurors based solely on race. Such a strike, the Court held, would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Lawyers need to have race-neutral reasons for excluding jurors, and opposing counsel can raise “Batson challenges,” or objections to those peremptory strikes, and demand those race-neutral explanations.
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