Trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Batson/Wheeler motions where prosecutor provided nondiscriminatory reasons to exercise peremptory strikes to remove four African-American prospective jurors. Bryant and Jackson were charged with first degree murder and other offenses. During jury selection, the prosecution used peremptory strikes to remove four African-American jurors. The defense motions challenging the prosecution’s use of peremptory strikes as improperly discriminatory under Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 and People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258, were denied. Defendants appealed. Held: Affirmed on this point. A peremptory challenge may be made for any permissible reason or no reason at all. However, exercising a peremptory challenge solely on the basis of race violates the defendant’s right to equal protection of the laws. To assert this error, defendant must make a prima facie showing the prosecutor exercised a peremptory challenge based on race. The prosecutor must then demonstrate the challenges were exercised for a race-neutral reason. The trial court determines whether defendants have proven purposeful discrimination. Here, several jurors were excused because they had negative experiences with police officers and did not believe minorities were treated fairly by the law. Additionally, one prospective juror had previously served on a jury that failed to reach a verdict. Another had a son who had recently been arrested and incarcerated and was the same age as the defendants. The trial court carefully considered the prosecutor’s reasons for challenging each of the prospective jurors, concluding that all of the reasons given were valid and race-neutral and the justifications genuine. There was no abuse of discretion. The Court of Appeal did not consider comparative juror analysis because the record was not adequate for such a comparison (the defense did not raise the issue of comparative analysis in the trial court).
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/A152029.PDF