In an Arizona criminal trial that is tried before a jury, a defendant cannot be found guilty unless all jurors agree unanimously. Thus, the process of jury selection is a crucial part of the criminal process. In essence, a defendant only needs to convince a single person on the jury that he is not guilty to secure a mistrial and avoid a conviction. Of course, in the event of a mistrial, the prosecution could re-prosecute the case; however, that won’t always be the case.
Recently, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in a case discussing the extent to which the prosecution can use race as a basis for selecting jurors. Ultimately, the Court reversed the defendant’s murder conviction, finding that the prosecution was motivated in substantial part by race when it struck one particular juror.
According to the Court’s opinion, the defendant was charged with the murder of four furniture store employees. The defendant is black, and three of the four victims were white. This case was the sixth time the defendant was charged for the murders; the previous five having been reversed or resulting in a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct. Specifically, in each case, the prosecution impermissibly struck black jurors from the jury panel.