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Name: People v. Jimenez (2024) 99 Cal.App.5th 534
Case #: D081267
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/03/2024
Subsequent History: Ordered published 2/6/2024

Defendant did not demonstrate that the prosecutor improperly exercised a peremptory challenge as to a prospective juror in violation of Code of Civil Procedure section 231.7. Prospective Juror Number 8 was a Latina who worked as a secretary for a school district. During voir dire, she stated she believed the law was imposed differently depending on a person’s skin color. Defense counsel objected under section 237.1 when the prosecutor sought to dismiss Juror No. 8 using a peremptory challenge. The prosecutor provided the following reasons for the challenge: (1) Juror No. 8’s beliefs about the racial bias of law enforcement officers; (2) that she worked for a school district, making her more likely to give second chances; and (3) she had never served on a jury. The court agreed the first reason was presumptively invalid but ultimately determined the challenge was unrelated to Juror No. 8’s race or ethnicity. Defendant appealed. Held: Affirmed on this point. Effective in criminal trials beginning January 1, 2022, section 237.1 established a new process for identifying unlawful bias in the use of peremptory challenges. Under subdivision (e), certain reasons for excusing a juror are presumptively invalid, including the juror’s distrust of law enforcement or a belief that criminal laws have been enforced in a discriminatory manner. This presumption may be overcome if the party exercising the peremptory challenge shows by clear and convincing evidence that the reasons given for the challenge are unrelated to conscious or unconscious bias and are instead specific to the juror and bear on that juror’s ability to be fair and impartial in the case. Here, Juror No. 8 repeatedly acknowledged she would have difficulty setting aside her bias against law enforcement officers to fairly consider their testimony, and the prosecutor also sought to excuse a white woman who had expressed similar feelings regarding her ability to be fair. This supports the conclusion that the prosecutor’s reference to its first reason for exercising a peremptory challenge against Juror No. 8 was related to Juror No. 8’s ability to be fair, not to her cognizable group membership. Thus, the trial court did not err in finding the prosecution overcame the presumption of invalidity as to its first reason for excusing Juror No. 8, and the reason could be considered as part of the totality of the circumstances analysis. (§ 237.1, subd. (d).) The Court of Appeal then analyzed the factors defendant argued showed a violation of section 237.1, noting the prosecutor had dismissed other school district employees and had not sought to remove all Latino prospective jurors, and concluded that under the totality of the circumstances there was no section 237.1 violation.

The prosecutor’s use of a peremptory challenge against Juror No. 8 did not violate defendant’s constitutional rights. Claims of unconstitutional challenges of prospective jurors are governed by the framework established by Batson/Wheeler. Here, the court concluded defendant did not make a prima facie case of discrimination as to the prosecutor’s use of a peremptory challenge to remove Juror No. 8. The mere fact that Juror No. 8 was Latina is insufficient to establish a prima facie case of intentional discrimination, and defendant failed to point to any other evidence. Further, because there was not a substantial likelihood that an objectively reasonable person would view race as a factor in the prosecutor’s peremptory challenge of Juror Number 8, it follows that the evidence was insufficient to permit the trial judge to draw an inference that discrimination had occurred. Even assuming defendant made a prima facie case, defendant would not be able to meet the remaining Batson/Wheeler requirements. The prosecutor specified legitimate reasons that did not have inherent discriminatory intent, and the record shows the trial court engaged in a sincere and reasoned effort to evaluate those reasons, finding them to be credible. [Editor’s Note: In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the court reversed defendant’s conviction under Vehicle Code section 20002(a) for insufficient evidence.]