The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made it easier for defendant to show race improperly played a role in prosecutors using a peremptory challenge on a juror by eliminating the requirement that a defendant show a pattern of conduct in excluding minority jurors. Prosecutors no longer get a free opportunity to strike one juror based on race because other were kept on the jury. This is an important victory preserving the right to a fair trial and making sure all voices are heard in the jury room. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court changed the standard for challenging peremptory strikes in Massachusetts state court. The Supreme Judicial Court has adopted the standard of Batson v. Kentucky, “retiring” the language of Commonwealth v. Soares.
The defendant in Commonwealth v. Sanchez challenged the prosecution’s peremptory strike in which a nineteen year old African American was removed from the jury. The trial judge upheld the peremptory strike. The defendant appealed. After losing his state appeal, the defendant applied for federal habeas corpus relief. There, the judge noted that the Massachusetts standard for challenging peremptory strikes in Soares was harder for defendants to meet than Batson. Still, defendant was denied habeas relief. Defendant then moved for a new trial in state court, which was granted. The Commonwealth appealed.
A Pattern of Discrimination is no longer required when challenging Race Based use of Peremptory Challenges