Miller-El v. Dretke

Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231 (2005), is a United States Supreme Court case that clarified the constitutional limitations on the use by prosecutors of peremptory challenges and of the Texas procedure appropriately termed the "jury shuffle."[1]

Miller-El v. Dretke
Argued December 6, 2004
Decided June 13, 2005
Full case nameMiller-El v. Dretke, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Divisions
Citations545 U.S. 231 (more)
125 S. Ct. 2317; 162 L. Ed. 2d 196; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 4658; 73 U.S.L.W. 4479; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 376
Case history
Prior361 F.3d 849 (5th Cir. 2004); cert. granted, 542 U.S. 936 (2004).
The prosecution in the capital trial of Miller-El violated the Fourteenth Amendment as interpreted in Batson v. Kentucky when it racially discriminated against black potential jurors, and Miller-El is entitled to habeas corpus relief.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
MajoritySouter, joined by Stevens, O'Connor, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer
DissentThomas, joined by Rehnquist, Scalia
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV


Thomas Miller-El was charged with capital murder committed in the course of a robbery. After voir dire, Miller-El moved to strike the entire jury because the prosecution had used its peremptory challenges to strike ten of the eleven African-Americans who were eligible to serve on the jury. This motion was denied, and Miller-El was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to death.

Opinion of the Court

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in Batson v. Kentucky that a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges may not be used to exclude jurors on the basis of race. Miller-El appealed based on the Batson criteria and asked that his conviction be overturned. In June 2005, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to overturn Miller-El's death sentence, finding his jury selection process had been tainted by racial bias.

The Court had held in Batson that a defendant could rely on "all relevant circumstances" in making out a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination. Miller-El clarified that "all relevant circumstances" included evidence outside "the four corners of the case."[2] Specifically, the Court allowed statistical analysis of the venire,[3] side-by-side comparison of struck and empaneled jurors,[4] disparate questioning,[5] and evidence of historical discrimination.[6]

The Court extended the holding of Miller-El in Snyder v. Louisiana.


  1. Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231 (2005).
  2. Miller-El, 545 U.S. at 240.
  3. Miller-El, 545 U.S. at 240-41.
  4. Miller-El, 545 U.S. at 241.
  5. Miller-El, 545 U.S. at 255.
  6. Miller-El, 545 U.S. at 263.
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