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Name: People v. Asbury
Case #: B255953
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/04/2016

Trial court did not commit reversible error by limiting the defense to 25 minutes of questioning during jury voir dire. Asbury appealed her murder conviction, arguing that the trial court committed reversible error by limiting her trial counsel to 25 minutes of voir dire. Trial counsel ultimately ran out of time and the court prohibited him from asking more questions, but the trial court did agree to ask any new potential jurors the questions defense counsel had asked the other jurors. Held: Affirmed. “[W]here . . . the trial judge so limits the scope of voir dire that the procedure used for testing does not create any reasonable assurances that prejudice would be discovered if present, he commits reversible error.” (People v. Chapman (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 136, 141.) Asbury argued that the trial court’s failure to ask the jurors about whether a party’s, attorney’s, or witness’ race would affect their judgment was prejudicial because she was Chinese and the alleged victim was Caucasian. “In a case involving an interracial killing . . . a trial court during general voir dire is required to question prospective jurors about racial bias on request.” (People v. Bolden (2002) 29 Cal.4th 515, 539.) Asbury’s attorney did not request that the jurors be questioned concerning their attitudes towards race and it is unclear whether such a request would have been futile. Also, the fact trial counsel failed to ask a single question regarding race during his 25 minutes of voir dire reflects that he did not view race as an important consideration. Ashby relied on Code of Civil Procedure section 222.5 to argue that a blanket time limit on voir dire was improper, but this statute only applies to civil jury trials. Additionally, Code of Civil Procedure section 223 provides that a trial court may specify an aggregate amount of time for questioning during voir dire in criminal cases. Absent evidence suggesting that one of the jurors who decided the case was biased, the trial court’s procedure was not sufficiently flawed to require reversal.

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