(CN) – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to examine sentences of life imprisonment against two convicted members of a drug-distribution ring tied to 31 murders.
Calvin Smith and John Raynor appealed their sentences stemming from a 158-count superseding indictment against them and several coconspirators regarding crimes committed in the 1980s and 1990s.
Although three-quarters of the jurors who entered the guilty verdict were black, the defendants claimed on appeal that prosecutors had improperly used peremptory challenges to remove black prospective jurors.
A federal judge rejected the claim, and the D.C. Circuit affirmed in July 2011. Though the three-judge panel was unanimous, some members withdrew from sections of the otherwise unsigned 128-page opinion. Judge Judith Rogers, who authored a 12-page concurring opinion, fully joined the first part of the lead opinion, which addressed Supreme Court precedent on peremptory challenges struck in 1986 with Batson v. Kentucky. Rogers also partly joined a fifth section that discussed Rules 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which bars trial courts from admitting evidence of “other crimes, wrongs, or acts … to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.”
Judge Brett Kavanaugh did not join in most of the opinion’s fourth section, titled “Prosecutorial Misconduct,” taking issue with sections about opening and closing arguments and overview witnesses.