Rivera v. Illinois

Rivera v. Illinois, 556 U.S. 148 (2009), is a decision by the United States Supreme Court involving whether the rejection of a defendant's peremptory challenge to a juror constituted harmless error.

Rivera v. Illinois
Argued February 23, 2009
Decided March 31, 2009
Full case nameMichael Rivera, Petitioner v. Illinois
Docket no.07-9995
Citations556 U.S. 148 (more)
129 S. Ct. 1446; 173 L. Ed. 2d 320
Case history
PriorHolding for the defendant, People v. Rivera, 227 Ill. 2d 1, 879 N.E.2d 876 (2007).
Unintentional errors by the court, that would not have altered the proceedings of the case, do not warrant a new trial and do not violate the Sixth Amendment's clause of the right to a fair trial.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy · David Souter
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Case opinion
MajorityGinsburg, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. VI

Background of the case

Michael Rivera was convicted of two counts of first degree murder in 1998. He was then sentenced to eighty-five years in prison. During the pre-trial voir dire, Rivera's counsel used a peremptory challenge to have a juror removed from consideration. The judge deemed the challenge to be based on discriminatory factors and allowed the juror to be seated.[1]

Rivera appealed, arguing that the trial judge erred in dismissing the peremptory challenge. The Illinois Supreme Court remanded the case for the trial court to explain why the peremptory challenge in question was discriminatory. The trial judge submitted gender discrimination as the relevant discriminatory factor.

Unsatisfied with this explanation, the Illinois Supreme Court held that Rivera was wrongly denied his challenge to dismiss the juror. The state supreme court found no evidence that Rivera's attorney used discriminatory considerations in arguing for the dismissal of the juror in question. Despite this, the state supreme court decided that such a mistake constituted a harmless error.[2]

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

James K. Leven argued the case for the petitioner. Michael A. Scodro argued the case for the respondent. Assistant to the Solicitor General Matthew D. Roberts argued the case for the United States, as amicus curiae, in support of the respondent.[3]

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Illinois Supreme Court decision in a unanimous opinion.

See also


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