The Sixth Circuit, in U. S. v. Atkins (12-13-16) reversed a conviction in a felon in possession case after prosecutors used five peremptory challenges against black jurors. The defendant objected on Batson grounds. The government countered that the fifth black juror was stricken because he had eight children, and therefore might be distracted, and because he had changed jobs in the past four months. After being convicted, the defendant appealed.
The appellate court held that the government's strike of the fifth black juror violated Batson. Specifically, the Court found that similarly situated white jurors were not stricken by the government, the government asked the black juror no questions related to the government's alleged concerns about him, and the government's explanation of its strike "reeked of afterthought."
Federal criminal defense attorneys need to continue to be aggressive in fighting racist jury strikes. Defendants are entitled to have a jury of their peers and the Court of Appeals decision in this case underscores the fact that defense attorneys need to be vigilant in protecting their clients' rights.