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Williams v. Louisiana

Jun 20, 2016
136 S. Ct. 2156 (2016)


No. 14–9409.



The motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the petition for a writ of certiorari are granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of Foster v. Chatman, 578 U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1737, ––– L.Ed.2d –––– (2016).

Justice GINSBURG, with whom Justices BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN join, concurring in the decision to grant, vacate, and remand.

"The Constitution forbids striking even a single prospective juror for a discriminatory purpose." Foster v. Chatman, 578 U.S. ––––, ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1747, ––– L.Ed.2d –––– (2016) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986) ). Batson "provides a three-step process for determining when a strike is discriminatory:

"First, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that a peremptory challenge has been exercised on the basis of race; second, if that showing has been made, the prosecution must offer a race-neutral basis for striking the juror in question; and third, in light of the parties' submissions, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has shown purposeful discrimination." Foster, 578 U.S., at ––––, 136 S.Ct., at 1747 (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis added).

This case concerns a Louisiana procedural rule that permits the trial court, rather than the prosecutor, to supply a race-neutral reason at Batson 's second step if "the court is satisfied that such reason is apparent from the voir dire examination of the juror." La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. Art. 795(C) (West 2013). Louisiana's rule, as the Louisiana Supreme Court has itself recognized, does not comply with this Court's Batson jurisprudence. State v. Elie, 05–1569 (La.7/10/2006), 936 So.2d 791, 797 (citing Johnson v. California, 545 U.S. 162, 172, 125 S.Ct. 2410, 162 L.Ed.2d 129 (2005) ). At Batson 's second step, "the trial court [must] demand an explanation from the prosecutor." Johnson, 545 U.S., at 170, 125 S.Ct. 2410 ; see id., at 172, 125 S.Ct. 2410 ("The Batson framework is designed to produce actual answers [from a prosecutor] to suspicions and inferences that discrimination may have infected the jury selection process.... It does not matter that the prosecutor might have had good reasons; what matters is the real reason [jurors] were stricken." (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted)); id., at 173, 125 S.Ct. 2410 (improper to "rel[y] on judicial speculation to resolve plausible claims of discrimination").

The rule allowing judge-supplied reasons, nonetheless, remains operative in Louisiana and was applied in petitioner's 2012 trial. On remand, the appropriate state court should reconsider petitioner's argument that the rule cannot be reconciled with Batson . A Louisiana court, "like any other state or federal court, is bound by this Court's interpretation of federal law." James v. Boise, 577 U.S. ––––, ––––, 136 S.Ct. 685, 686, 193 L.Ed.2d 694 (2016) (per curiam ). See also App. to Pet. for Cert. 19a (Belsome, J., dissenting) ("[T]he United States Supreme Court has made clear ... that the State is obligated to offer a race-neutral reason. The judge is an arbiter not a participant in the judicial process. Allowing the court to provide race-neutral reasons for the State violates [the Constitution].").

Justice ALITO, with whom Justice THOMAS joins, dissenting from the decision to grant, vacate, and remand.

For the reasons set out in my statement in Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 14–10486, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 2157, ––– L.Ed.2d ––––, 2016 WL 3369523 (2016) I would deny the petition.

The concurring statement calls upon the appropriate state court on remand to consider petitioner's argument that the trial judge did not comply with the second step of the procedure mandated by Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), because the judge, in accordance with a state procedural rule, rejected a defense challenge on the ground that a race-neutral reason for the strike was apparent from the voir dire of the juror in question. But whether petitioner is entitled to relief on this ground has nothing to do with Foster, which "address[ed] only Batson 's third step." Foster v. Chatman, 578 U.S. ––––, ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1747, –––L.Ed.2d –––– (2016).

Summaries of

Williams v. Louisiana

Jun 20, 2016
136 S. Ct. 2156 (2016)
Case details for

Williams v. Louisiana

Case Details



Date published: Jun 20, 2016


136 S. Ct. 2156 (2016)
195 L. Ed. 2d 819

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