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Name: People v. Black
Case #: S206928
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 03/27/2014

When a trial court’s erroneous ruling requires a defendant to use a peremptory challenge and leaves him unable to exclude an objectionable juror from his case, reversal is not required unless an incompetent juror sits on the case. Appellant was charged with animal cruelty. During voir dire, appellant challenged two prospective jurors, M.P. and A.D., for cause. The court denied the challenges and appellant used two of his ten allotted peremptory challenges to remove the jurors. When Juror No. 8 was seated, appellant challenged him for cause, but the court denied the motion. Having used all his peremptory challenges, appellant requested two additional challenges to replace those he used to excuse M.P. and A.D. The request was denied. Following his conviction, appellant appealed, claiming his right to an impartial jury under the Sixth Amendment was violated because a juror he objected to sat on his case. The Court of Appeal affirmed and the Supreme Court granted review. Held: Affirmed. Challenges for cause are constitutionally guaranteed whereas the right to a peremptory challenge is statutory. An erroneous denial of a challenge for cause where a defendant then uses a peremptory challenge to excuse the juror is not reversible error when it deprives a defendant only of a peremptory challenge to another juror. If the jury is impartial, the fact that defendant had to use a peremptory challenge to this end does not result in a constitutional violation. Here, assuming that the trial court erred in denying the challenges for cause to M.P. and A.D., the error was cured when appellant used the peremptory challenges to excuse the prospective jurors. Although appellant exhausted his peremptory challenges and was unable to remove an objectionable juror due to the trial court’s error, he was not entitled to reversal because he did not show that Juror No. 8 was incompetent to serve.