The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals granted a Bedford County defendant a new trial after determining that the prosecutor improperly challenged a juror simply because she was black. During jury selection, the prosecutor asked whether anyone had a “relative or somebody that has a drug problem.” Ten jurors – nine white and one black – answered yes, but the prosecutor only struck the black juror.
When asked why he struck the black juror, the prosecutor answered, “[the juror had] a family problem with drugs. That could be people that have used drugs; that could be people in the distribution of drugs.” In reviewing his explanation, the court of criminal appeals noted that the prosecutor never actually asked about the distribution of drugs. Thus, his response was at best questionable. Given the prosecutor’s answer was less than credible and he did not strike any similarly situated white jurors, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the defendant’s convictions and ordered a new trial.
State of Tennessee v. Tommy Lee Collins, Jr., No. M2015-01030-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. May 16, 2017)