Supreme Court Reinstates Texas Death Verdict

On February 22, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear, and then summarily reversed, a federal appeals court decision that would have given a Texas defendant a new trial based on improper jury selection. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had ruled that Anthony Haynes should be retried or released because a prospective juror was improperly excluded based on the juror’s race. Two different judges had presided over the jury selection; one actually observed the juror’s demeanor during questioning, and the second listened to the prosecution’s explanation for excluding this juror. The Fifth Circuit said that the second judge’s decision was not entitled to special deference because he had not observed the actual juror. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision, held that the lower court had misinterpreted its prior rulings, and deference should have been accorded to the judge’s decision. The high court’s ruling did not exclude a review of the juror’s exclusion under the proper standard.

Richard Ellis, an attorney for Haynes, said he could seek a rehearing before the U.S. Supreme Court or renew his challenge to the juror’s exclusion in arguments to the 5th Circuit. In Batson v. Kenucky (1986), the Supreme Court established the practice for challenging the dismissal of a juror because of race. The current case is Thaler v. Haynes, No. 09-273 (Feb. 22, 2010).

(“No new trial in Texas police officer death,” Associated Press, February 22, 2010). Read more about Supreme Court decisions.