State trial court’s denial of petitioner’s Batson motion was not unreasonable given comparative analysis and prosecution’s race-neutral reasons for striking jurors. Petitioner was convicted in state court of receiving stolen property. During jury selection he raised a Batson claim to the prosecutor’s use of peremptory strikes to dismiss African American jurors. The state courts rejected his challenge. The district court granted habeas relief and the State appealed. Held: Reversed. In reviewing the state court’s denial of petitioner’s Batson claim the federal court performed the comparative analysis that the state court declined to pursue. The state court’s decision was then evaluated in the context of this comparative analysis, along with any evidence in the record that tended to show purposeful discrimination, to determine whether the state court was unreasonable in finding the prosecutor’s race-neutral reasons for striking the jurors were genuine. The evidence presented, including the comparative analysis, reflects the state trial court reasonably found the prosecutor’s reasons for striking the jurors genuine and not pretextual.
The court was not prohibited from considering pictures of the jury venire in conducting its comparative analysis. The prosecution challenged the use of driver’s license photographs to reconstruct the racial makeup of the jury venire, as this information was not before the state appellate courts. However, use of these photos was not prohibited by Cullen v. Pinholster (2011) 131 S.Ct. 1388, which “barred consideration of evidence adduced for the first time in a hearing in federal district court,” limiting review to the record before the state court. Where a habeas petitioner alleges a Batson violation and the state court has not performed a comparative analysis, the reviewing court must do so. To execute this duty, the reviewing court may consider evidence reconstructing the racial composition of the jury venire. Further, the physical attributes of the jury venire were visible to the state trial court.