Excuses, Excuses: Neutral Explanations Under Batson v. Kentucky

The legal struggle for racial justice in the United States has always been in part a struggle to determine how best to achieve racial equality. In 1986, in Batson v. Kentucky, the United States Supreme Court attempted to curb racial discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges to strike potential members of a jury. The Court mandated procedures for determining whether a prosecutor had struck members of the venire because of their race. The procedures furnished in Batson are quite general, however, and lower courts have used a variety of standards in implementing them. This Article examines how lower courts have handled one important Batson procedure-the “neutral explanation” that prosecutors must offer to explain their strikes”-and suggests how the treatment of neutral explanations can be improved.