In October 2020, we filed a brief with the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law before the Massachusetts Appeals Court arguing that allowing a prosecutor’s peremptory strike to stand based on a common pretextual reason of a loved one’s arrest or incarceration, in a state and country where Black and Hispanic people are disparately policed and incarcerated, will reinforce and legitimize a method that can be used to disparately exclude Black and Hispanic citizens from juries. In the case, the sole Hispanic juror in the venire at trial was struck by the prosecution—in a case involving a Hispanic defendant—because the juror’s brother was incarcerated in another state. The proffered reason for the peremptory strike: the prosecutor was “just not comfortable based on the charges in this hearing.” The charges at issue in the trial? Intent to distribute Class B drugs. The family member’s case? Arrested and charged with murder in Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, the Appeals Court held that, though the defendant raised a prima facie case of discrimination, the prosecutor offered an adequate and genuine group-neutral reason to keep the prospective juror from serving on the jury. In our letter seeking further appellate review by the state’s highest court, we argue that the Appeals Court erred in its application and interpretation of both state and federal constitutional law. We urge the Supreme Judicial Court to take the case not only to perform a critical error correction function, but also to revisit the Commonwealth’s rules on the disparate impact of peremptory strikes as states like Washington, California, and Connecticut have done. We are grateful to again be joined by the Korematsu Center as well as the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law and Fordham Law School’s Center on Race, Law, and Justice.
Read our letter: