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Court Addresses Batson Claim in Habeas Case

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By FindLaw Staff on February 22, 2010 12:03 PM

Today, the Supreme Court decided two cases, one in a capital habeas matter and the other dealing with a prisoner's claim of excessive force (covered here).

In Thaler v. Haynes, No. 09-273, a capital habeas case, a court of appeals had reversed a denial of petitioner's habeas petition.

The Supreme Court outlined the issue presented as follows: "This case presents the question whether any decision of this Court 'clearly establishes' that a judge, in ruling on an objection to a peremptory challenge under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), must reject a demeanor-based explanation for the challenge unless the judge personally observed and recalls the aspect of the prospective juror's demeanor on which the explanation is based."

The Court reversed on the ground that clearly established law did not provide that a demeanor-based explanation for a peremptory challenge, in response to a Batson claim, must be rejected unless the judge personally observed and recalled the relevant aspect of the prospective juror's demeanor.

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