This SC Supreme Court case illustrates how every aspect of a serious injury case is aggressively defended. Here, defense lawyers wrongfully struck minority jurors during jury selection. The Court correctly reversed the case and remanded it for a new trial. But note, the lawyers had to fight all the way to the state Supreme Court and will have to try this case  all over again. Better make sure your serious accident attorney is willing to go the distance and fight for you and your family. There is too much at stake to risk an inexperienced or timid lawyer.

At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP, all of our attorneys are seasoned trial lawyers with over 70 years combined experience. Whether it is criminal or civil, our litigators are regularly in Court fighting for our clients. Two of our firm’s partners, Art Aiken and Robert Reeves, are inducted lifetime members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Mr. Reeves has also been named one of the Top 100 lawyers for South Carolina in 2012 by the National Trial Lawyers Organization. Our attorneys include a former SC prosecutor, a former public defender, a former NC District Attorney intern, a former Registered Nurse (RN), and former insurance defense attorneys. As a result of their varied backgrounds, they understand the potential criminal, insurance, and medical aspects of complex injury cases. We would welcome an opportunity to sit down and personally review your case. Compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other law firm. Then call us today at 803-548-4444 for a private consultation. Or visit our firm’s website at www.rjrlaw.com

In The Supreme Court

Manuel Robinson, as duly appointed Personal Representative of the Estate of Brenda Doris Robinson, deceased, Petitioner,


Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, Inc. and St. Francis Hospital, Inc., d/b/a St. Francis Women’s and Family Hospital, Adrian Paul Corlette, Sr., MD, Elaine Mary Haule, MD, Donald Webster Wing, MD and Tara L. Sabatinos, PA, Respondents.


Appeal From Greenville County
D. Garrison Hill, Circuit Court Judge

Opinion No. 26628
Heard January 22, 2009 – Filed April 13, 2009


Matthew Christian and W. Harold Christian, Jr., both of Christian Moorhead & Davis, of Greenville, for Petitioner.

Ashby W. Davis, of Davis & Snyder, of Greenville, and Gregory A. Morton, of Donnan & Morton, of Greenville, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM:  We granted a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals’ opinion in Robinson v. Bon Secours St. Francis Health Sys. Inc., Op. No. 2006-UP-333 (S.C. Ct. App. filed September 20, 2006).  The sole issue on certiorari is whether the Court of Appeals properly upheld the trial court’s denial of Robinson’s Batson[1] motion.  We reverse.


Robinson is the personal representative of the estate of his deceased wife, Brenda, who passed away while under the care of Respondents on September 19, 2000.[2]  Robinson brought wrongful death and survival actions against the hospital and treating physicians.   The trial commenced on March 21, 2005.

During jury selection, counsel for the defense struck four potential jurors: three black females and one white male.  The jury was ultimately composed of five white males, seven white females, one black female alternate, and one white female alternate.  Robinson made a Batson motion to set aside the state’s strikes of the three black potential jurors.

In response, defense counsel explained the rationale for his strike of Juror No. 12 stating, she was “a 53-year-old black female would more identify with the 52-year-old decedent in this case than she would any other party.”  Defense counsel also gave his reasons for striking the other black female jurors being that one had limited education and limited life experience due to her youth, and the other was too young and unemployed.

The trial court held the explanations given were race neutral such that Robinson had not met his burden of demonstrating purposeful discrimination; the Court of Appeals affirmed.  Robinson v. Bon Secours St. Francis Health Sys. Inc., Op. No. 2006-UP-333 (S.C. Ct. App. filed September 20, 2006).


Did the Court of Appeals err in affirming the denial of Petitioner’s Batson motion?


The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the striking of a venire person on the basis of race or gender. McCrea v. Gheraibeh, 380 S.C. 183, 669 S.E.2d 333 (2008).  A Batson hearing must be held when members of a cognizable racial group or gender are struck and the opposing party requests a hearing.  State v. Adams, 322 S.C. 114, 124, 470 S.E.2d 366, 372 (1996).  At the hearing, the proponent of the strike must offer a facially race-neutral explanation for the strike.  Once the proponent states a race-neutral reason, the burden is on the party challenging the strike to show the explanation is mere pretext, either by showing similarly situated members of another race were seated on the jury or that the reason given for the strike is so fundamentally implausible as to constitute mere pretext despite a lack of disparate treatment.   State v. Evins, 373 S.C. 404, 415, 645 S.E.2d 904, 909 (2007), cert. denied, — U.S. —-, 128 S.Ct. 662, 169 L.Ed.2d 521 (2007); McCrea v. Gheraibeh.

An explanation for a jury strike will be deemed race-neutral unless a discriminatory intent is inherent.  Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 768, (1995); Adams, 322 S.C. at 123, 470 S.E.2d 471 (emphasis supplied).  Where the stated reason is inherently discriminatory, the inquiry ends and a pretext inquiry is obviated.  McCrea, 380 S.C. at ___, 669 S.E.2d at 335.  On two occasions, this Court has found the stated reason for a juror strike facially discriminatory.   In Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 56, 495 S.E.2d 205, 208 (1998), we held a peremptory challenge based upon a characterization of the juror as a “redneck” was facially discriminatory, and therefore violative of Batson.  Most recently, in McCrea, we found a solicitor’s “uneasiness” over a potential juror’s dreadlocks was insufficient to satisfy the race-neutral requirement.

Here, defense counsel stated the reason he struck the juror was that she was a “53-year-old black female” who “would more identify with the 52-year-old decedent in this case than she would any other party.”  The reason is, on its face, inherently discriminatory.[3]  Accordingly, the trial court erred in proceeding to the next step of the inquiry, i.e., whether the stated reason was pretextual.  AccordMcCrea (trial court must first elicit race-neutral reason for strike before proceeding with pretext inquiry).  We hold the trial court erred in denying Robinson’s Batson motion.  The case is reversed and remanded for a new trial.


TOAL, C.J., WALLER, PLEICONES, BEATTY, JJ., and Acting Justice James E. Moore, concur.

[1]  Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).

[2]  Brenda Robinson was a fifty-two year old epileptic who had a shunt implanted in August 2000 to drain fluid from her brain.  She went to the St. Francis Hospital Emergency Room on September 11, 2000 after a seizure where she was evaluated and discharged.   As a result of this evaluation, Robinson was subsequently advised she had a urinary tract infection and was proscribed antibiotics.  She went home and began having seizures several days later.  She returned to the hospital on September 15, 2000, and became comatose.   She died four days later.

[3]  We are unpersuaded by the claim that the reason for the strike was a similarity in age, as opposed to race.  At best, the age factor provides an alternate motivation for the strike.   This Court, however, has specifically rejected a dual motivation analysis in the context of a Batson claim.  Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 59, 495 S.E.2d 205, 210 (1998) (notwithstanding validity of remaining explanations, one racially discriminatory reason vitiates strike).