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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Facts of the Case 

Christopher Lee Armstrong and others were indicted on federal charges of "conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (crack) and conspiring to distribute the same." The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms had monitored Armstrong and others prior to their indictment and arrest. Armstrong filed a motion for discovery or dismissal, alleging that he was selected for prosecution because he was black. The District Court granted the discovery order. It ordered the government to provide statistics on similar cases from the last three years. The government indicated it would not comply. Subsequently, the District Court dismissed the case. The government appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. It held that the proof requirements for a selective-prosecution claim do not require a defendant to demonstrate that the government has failed to prosecute others who are similarly situated.


Must criminal defendants who pursue selective-prosecution claims demonstrate people of other races were not prosecuted for similar crimes?

Decision: 8 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (or relevant rules of a circuit court)

Yes. In an 8-1 decision, announced by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that in order to file selective-prosecution claims, defendants must show that the government failed to prosecute similarly situated suspects of other races. "If the claim . . . were well founded," wrote Rehnquist, "it should not have been an insuperable task to prove that persons of a different race were not prosecuted."

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UNITED STATES v. ARMSTRONG. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_157>.
UNITED STATES v. ARMSTRONG, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_157 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. ARMSTRONG," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_157.