Skip to content
Name: McDaniels v. Kirkland
Case #: 09-17339
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 07/25/2014

For a federal court to conduct a comparative jury analysis to review a state trial court’s ruling in a Batson challenge, appellate counsel must insure that the record before the state appellate court includes the entire voir dire transcript and any juror questionnaires. McDaniels and Jenkins were charged with murder. They raised a Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 claim after four African-Americans were excused during voir dire. The trial court found the defense established a prima facie case of discrimination but, after the prosecution offered race-neutral reasons for its challenges, denied the motion. The convictions were affirmed by the California Court of Appeal (CCA), which held it was not required to engage in a comparative juror analysis because that argument was not raised in the trial court. Although the CCA sua sponte augmented the record to include parts of the voir dire, it did not include the first day or the juror questionnaires. The California Supreme Court affirmed and defendants separately petitioned for federal writ relief. In response, the State filed the missing voir dire transcript and some of the questionnaires as exhibits. The district court denied the petition and defendants appealed. Held: Affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the utility of a comparative juror analysis in completing an inquiry into whether the defendant has shown purposeful discrimination. In fact, it is a “centerpiece of the Batson analysis.” A comparative juror analysis is an important tool for federal courts to use in evaluating the state court’s ruling to a Batson challenge. Here, the record was insufficient to allow it to do so. In California, the transcript of jury voir dire and juror questionnaires are not part of the appellate record. It is the appellate attorney’s duty to augment the record to correct any deficiencies and thereby allow sufficient review. The CCA did not unreasonably apply Batson when it did not sua sponte augment the record to allow for a comparative juror analysis.

The Court of Appeal’s decision upholding the trial court’s denial of the Batson motion was not unreasonable. The federal court found it could only review the CCA’s decision in light of the evidence before it and, because portions of voir dire and the jury questionnaires were not in the appellate record, the federal court could not conclude whether the CCA made unreasonable findings of fact. Based on the partial voir dire transcript that was before the CCA, the court could not conclude the CCA’s decision was unreasonable because to do so “would be to substitute [its] half-informed judgment for the fully informed trial judge’s.”