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United States v. Bass

U.S.
Jun 28, 2002
536 U.S. 862 (2002)

Summary

holding that “raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants.”

Summary of this case from United States v. Lawrence

Opinion

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

No. 01-1471.

Decided June 28, 2002

Claiming that the United States filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in respondent's capital murder case because of his race, respondent moved to dismiss the notice and, in the alternative, for discovery of information relating to the Government's capital charging practices. The District Court granted his discovery motion and dismissed the notice after the Government said that it would not comply with the discovery order, The Sixth Circuit affirmed.

Held: The Sixth Circuit's decision is contrary to United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 465, in which this Court held that a defendant seeking discovery on a selective prosecution claim must show some evidence of both discriminatory effect and discriminatory intent. As to evidence of discriminatory effect, a defendant must make a credible showing that similarly situated individuals of a different race were not prosecuted. Id., at 465, 470. The Sixth Circuit concluded that respondent had made such a showing based on nationwide statistics demonstrating that the Government charges blacks with a death-eligible offense more than twice as often as it charges whites and that it enters into plea bargains more frequently with whites than with blacks. Even assuming that a nationwide showing can satisfy the Armstrong requirement, raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants. And the plea bargain statistics are even less relevant, since respondent declined the plea bargain offered him.

Certiorari granted; 266 F.3d 532, reversed.


A federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Michigan returned a second superseding indictment charging respondent with, inter alia, the intentional firearm killings of two individuals. The United States filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Respondent, who is black, alleged that the Government had determined to seek the death penalty against him because of his race. He moved to dismiss the death penalty notice and, in the alternative, for discovery of information relating to the Government's capital charging practices. The District Court granted the motion for discovery, and after the Government informed the court that it would not comply with the discovery order, the court dismissed the death penalty notice. A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the District Court's discovery order. 266 F.3d 532 (2001). We grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and now summarily reverse.

In United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 465 (1996), we held that a defendant who seeks discovery on a claim of selective prosecution must show some evidence of both discriminatory effect and discriminatory intent. We need go no further in the present case than consideration of the evidence supporting discriminatory effect. As to that, Armstrong says that the defendant must make a "credible showing" that "similarly situated individuals of a different race were not prosecuted." Id., at 465, 470. The Sixth Circuit concluded that respondent had made such a showing based on nationwide statistics demonstrating that "[t]he United States charges blacks with a death-eligible offense more than twice as often as it charges whites" and that the United States enters into plea bargains more frequently with whites than it does with blacks. 266 F.3d, at 538-539 (citing U.S. Dept. of Justice, The Federal Death Penalty System: A Statistical Survey (1988-2000), p. 2 (Sept. 12, 2000). Even assuming that the Armstrong requirement can be satisfied by a nationwide showing (as opposed to a showing regarding the record of the decisionmakers in respondent's case), raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants. And the statistics regarding plea bargains are even less relevant, since respondent was offered a plea bargain but declined it. See Pet. for Cert. 16. Under Armstrong, therefore, because respondent failed to submit relevant evidence that similarly situated persons were treated differently, he was not entitled to discovery.

In January 1995, the Department of Justice (DOJ) instituted a policy, known as the death penalty protocol, that required the Attorney General to make the decision whether to seek the death penalty once a defendant had been charged with a capital-eligible offense. See Pet. for Cert. 3 (citing DOJ, United States Attorneys' Manual § 9-10.010 et seq. (Sept. 1997)). The charging decision continued to be made by one of the 93 United States Attorneys throughout the country, but the protocol required that the United States Attorneys submit for review all cases in which they had charged a defendant with a capital-eligible offense. Ibid.

The Sixth Circuit's decision is contrary to Armstrong and threatens the "performance of a core executive constitutional function." Armstrong, supra, at 465. For that reason, we reverse.

It is so ordered.


Summaries of

United States v. Bass

U.S.
Jun 28, 2002
536 U.S. 862 (2002)

holding that “raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants.”

Summary of this case from United States v. Lawrence

holding that "raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants."

Summary of this case from United States v. Coley

holding that defendant was not entitled to discovery on a selective prosecution claim where he merely presented "nationwide statistics demonstrating that '[t]he United States charges blacks with a death-eligible offense more than twice as often as it charges whites' and that the United States enters into plea bargains more frequently with whites than it does with blacks"

Summary of this case from United States v. Lamar

finding defendants "failed to submit relevant evidence that similarly situated persons were treated differently" where defendants relied on nationwide statistics demonstrating that African Americans defendants are charged with "death-eligible offenses more than twice as often as white" defendants because "raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants."

Summary of this case from United States v. Viera

concluding that "nationwide statistics demonstrating that the United States charges blacks with a death-eligible offense more than twice as often as it charges whites" were insufficient for the purpose of satisfying the Armstrong standard

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Thorpe

reversing the lower court's decision because the respondent in that case relied on statistics to support his showing of discriminatory effect, and the Court found that "raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants."

Summary of this case from United States v. Mitchell

reversing Sixth Circuit's opinion allowing discovery into whether race influenced decision to charge defendants with death-eligible offenses

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Lee

approving of "a showing regarding the record of the decisionmakers in respondent's case"

Summary of this case from Belmontes v. Brown

approving of "a showing regarding the record of the decisionmakers in respondent's case"

Summary of this case from Belmontes v. Woodford

rejecting discovery based on failure to offer evidence tending to show discriminatory effect without discussing discriminatory intent

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Nickens

In United States v. Bass, 536 U.S. 862, 122 S.Ct. 2389, 153 L.Ed.2d 769 (2002) (per curiam), the defendant argued that the government had elected to seek the death penalty, rather than a lesser punishment, because of his race.

Summary of this case from United States v. Sellers

involving claim of selective prosecution in seeking the death penalty

Summary of this case from United States v. Sellers

In Bass, the district court had dismissed the government's notice of intent to seek the death penalty as a sanction for the government's refusal to comply with the district court's discovery order.

Summary of this case from United States v. Davis

In Bass, the evidence presented to support the discriminatory effect element were "nationwide statistics demonstrating that `[t]he United States charges blacks with a death-eligible offense more than twice as often as it charges whites' and that the United States enters into plea bargains more frequently with whites than it does with blacks."

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Hedaithy

overturning discovery order because "raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants"

Summary of this case from Gabrion v. United States

confirming that "a defendant who seeks discovery on a claim of selective prosecution must show some evidence of both discriminatory effect and discriminatory intent"

Summary of this case from United States v. Burke

explaining that "nationwide statistics demonstrating that '[t]he United States charges blacks with a death-eligible offense more than twice as often as it charges whites' and that the United States enters into plea bargains more frequently with whites than it does with blacks" was insufficient specific to warrant further discovery

Summary of this case from United States v. Burke

In United States v. Bass, 536 U.S. 862, 863–64, 122 S.Ct. 2389, 153 L.Ed.2d 769 (2002) (per curiam), the Supreme Court held that discovery for a selective prosecution claim was not warranted based on nationwide statistics showing differences in the percentage of death-eligible charging decisions, based on race.

Summary of this case from Runyon v. United States

stating that “a nationwide showing” of “raw statistics regarding overall charges [of death-eligible offenses] say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants ”

Summary of this case from Bolden v. United States

In Bass, the defendant attempted to make the required "credible showing" that "similarly situated individuals of a different race were not prosecuted" for the death penalty by presenting national statistics showing that African-Americans were charged with death eligible offenses more than twice as often as whites and that the Government entered into plea bargains more frequently with whites than African-Americans.

Summary of this case from United States v. Watts

In United States v. Bass, 536 U.S. 862 (2002) (per curiam), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the rule that a defendant seeking discovery on a selective prosecution claim "must show some evidence of both discriminatory effect and discriminatory intent."

Summary of this case from United States v. Watts

In Bass, rather than submit evidence that similarly situated persons were treated differently, the defendant presented nationwide statistics that demonstrated that the United States charges blacks with a death-eligible offense more than twice as often as it charges whites and that the United States enters into plea bargains more frequently with whites than it does with blacks.

Summary of this case from United States v. Washington

declining to lower the threshold for discovery set forth in Armstrong, and holding that a defendant who seeks discovery on a claim of selective prosecution must submit relevant evidence that similarly situated persons were treated differently

Summary of this case from United States v. Skiljevic

noting that "raw statistics regarding overall charges say nothing about charges brought against similarly situated defendants"

Summary of this case from Jones v. Sterling
Case details for

United States v. Bass

Case Details

Full title:UNITED STATES v . JOHN BASS

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jun 28, 2002

Citations

536 U.S. 862 (2002)
122 S. Ct. 2389

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