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Name: People v. Johnson
Case #: A085450
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 04/05/2001
Subsequent History: Rev. granted 7/18/01 as S097600
Summary

The court concluded that a prima facie case of group bias under People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258 had been established where the prosecutor’s peremptory challenges removed all African-Americans from the jury. The opinion includes a long discussion regarding the distinctions between the language used in Wheeler (“strong likelihood”) and Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 (“raise an inference”) to establish bias, and concluded that the correct standard under Wheeler is a reasonable inference of group bias. The court also concluded that where the trial court found a prima facie showing had not been made, a reviewing court may compare the voir dire testimony of those members of the venire excluded from the jury and those that were not, if such evidence is not one-sided, highly speculative, or unduly emphasized. Here, as to prospective juror Ms. T., no basis other than race appears for her peremptory challenge. Although she left two questions (asking for opinions on prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys) on the questionnaire blank, she said she had made a mistake leaving them blank, but it was because she had no opinions on those topics. Two white prospective jurors also left the answers blank. Also, the fact that she had a favorable opinion of her African-American coworkers was an opinion shared with two white members and one Hispanic/Latino prospective juror. As to prospective juror Ms. E., her initial failure to list her parent’s arrest for robbery 35 years earlier when she was an infant was not a race-neutral reason for exclusion when several other jurors and their family members had been arrested. Also, her initial response that she did not know if she could be fair knowing the case involved the alleged murder and abuse of an 18-month-old child was not significantly different from several jurors who also initially expressed abhorrence of child abuse but who also later verbally clarified that they could be fair. The prosecutor also failed to engage in any followup questions of the African-American members of the venire even though invited to do so by the court.