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Berghuis v. Smith, No. 08-1402

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By FindLaw Staff on March 30, 2010 4:56 PM

Berghuis v. Smith, No. 08-1402, involved habeas proceedings brought by an individual convicted of second degree murder by an all-white jury.  The Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit's reversal of the denial of petitioner's habeas petition, on the ground that Duren v. Missouri, 439 U. S. 357 (1979), hardly established -- much less "clearly" so -- that petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury drawn from a fair cross section of the community, because petitioner's evidence gave the Michigan Supreme Court little reason to conclude that the county's juror assignment order had any significant effect on the representation of African-Americans in the venire.

As the Court wrote:  "At voir dire in the Kent County Circuit Court trial of respondent Smith, an African-American, the venire panel included between 60 and 100 individuals, only 3 of whom, at most, were African-American. At that time, African-Americans constituted 7.28% of the County's jury-eligible population, and 6% of the pool from which potential jurors were drawn. The court rejected Smith's objection to the panel's racial composition, an all-white jury convicted him of second-degree murder and felony firearm possession, and the court sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole."

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