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Name: Crittenden v. Chappell
Case #: 13-17327
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 10/26/2015

In federal habeas proceedings, district court did not err in finding that one of a prosecutor’s peremptory strikes in a California capital trial was motivated in substantial part by race in violation of the equal protection clause. Crittenden filed a federal habeas petition arguing the prosecutor at his capital murder trial struck a black potential juror, Casey, for race-based reasons. (See Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79.) After an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied the petition, reasoning that although “race played a significant part” in the strike, the prosecutor would have struck Casey anyway based on her views concerning the death penalty. Crittenden appealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, clarifying that the proper analysis, under Cook v. LaMarque (9th Cir. 2010) 593 F.3d 810, “is whether the peremptory strike was motivated in substantial part by race . . . regardless of whether the strike would have issued if race had played no role.” On remand, the district court found that the strike was substantially motivated by race and granted Crittenden’s habeas petition. On appeal, the state argued that the district court’s factual finding was clearly erroneous. Held: Affirmed. The district court’s finding that the strike was substantially motivated by race was not clearly erroneous. The prosecutor had written a rating for each prospective juror on his copy of the juror’s questionnaire and had given Casey the worst possible rating. A comparative juror analysis revealed that the prosecutor’s rating and strike could not be explained by Casey’s death penalty views since other comparable white jurors were given significantly better ratings and were selected for the jury. The prosecutor also made a meritless for-cause challenge based on Casey’s general opposition for the death penalty. Together, this was sufficient evidence to support the district court’s finding. [Editor’s Note: The court also determined that the California Supreme Court’s decision rejecting Crittenden’s Batson claim was not entitled to AEDPA deference and rejected the state’s argument that Cook announced a new rule of criminal procedure for purposes of the Teague v. Lane (1989) 489 U.S. 288 bar.]