WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court unanimously restored the conviction of a California rapist on Monday and slapped the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals again for handing down an opinion it called "inexplicable" and "dismissive" in tone.
The decision marked the 10th time since November that the justices had reversed rulings of the 9th Circuit, and nearly all of them were unanimous.
Repeatedly, the justices have faulted the San Francisco-based appeals court for intervening in state criminal cases.
The latest case arose after a jury convicted Steven Jackson of raping and robbing a 72-year-old woman in her apartment. The legal dispute concerned the seating of the jurors. When the two sides were screening potential jurors, the prosecutor acted to remove two African-Americans. The defense attorney for Jackson, who is an African-American, questioned the moves, but the trial judge agreed the prosecutor had valid "race-neutral" reasons for removing the pair. Only one African-American sat on the jury.
Under precedents, a trial judge must examine the reasons for removing jurors if there is a suspicion of racial bias.
A California appeals court, the state Supreme court and a federal judge later rejected appeals from Jackson and ruled the trial judge handled the matter properly.
Last year, Jackson's appeal reached the 9th Circuit. On April 15, a three-judge panel reversed his conviction, saying jurors were treated differently.
On Monday, the high court reversed the 9th Circuit and said the California state judges had handled Jackson's case in a reasonable manner. "There was simply no reason for the 9th Circuit to reach the opposite conclusion, particularly in such a dismissive manner," the high court said.