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Name: Paulino v. Harrison
Case #: 07-55429
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 09/04/2008
Summary

In an action asserting that peremptory challenges of prospective jurors have been for discriminatory purposes, where the state fails to meet its burden to offer race-neutral reasons, the trial court must still make a determination as to whether defendant has established purposeful discrimination. At trial, petitioner made a Wheeler objection after the prosecutor removed the fifth African-American venire-member. Without requiring the prosecutor to explain her motives, the court observed the statistical gravity of excluding 83% of possible black jurors but nevertheless denied the challenge, finding that “[i]f you go down the line, I can see why [the prosecutor] would be uncomfortable with each of them. Based upon that, I find no prima facie case.” The federal appellate court found the process used by the court violated Batson and remanded to evaluate petitioner’s objection, as he had met his prima facie burden. At the subsequent evidentiary hearing, the prosecutor testified she had no memory of her reasons for the challenges to the jurors, had no notes, and could not refresh her memory with the transcripts. The appellate court held that although the state had not met its burden of production of race-neutral reasons, the trial court must still make the ultimate determination of whether there was purposeful discrimination. Here, the statistical disparities and the lack of justification provided strong support for a finding of purposeful discrimination.