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Name: People v. Jones
Case #: B263800
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 01/19/2017
Summary

Defendant was unable to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination in jury selection even though prosecutor struck three African-American prospective jurors. Jones, a 17-year-old African-American, was tried as an adult for murder and attempted murder. During jury selection, the prosecutor struck three African-American jurors: one for serving on a hung jury and two others for lacking life experience because they were young, unmarried, and had no children. Jones made a motion pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 and People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258, which the trial court denied, reasoning that Jones failed to make a prima facie case of racial discrimination. The jury ultimately convicted Jones and he appealed. Held: Affirmed. The first step of the three-step Batson test requires that the defendant make a prima facie case by showing that the “totality of the facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose.” While the prosecutor in this case used three of her nine peremptory challenges against African-American prospective jurors, two African-Americans were ultimately empaneled. Courts “have found it impossible as a practical matter, to draw the requisite inference [of racial discrimination] where only a few members of a cognizable group have been excused.” (People v. Garcia (2011) 52 Cal.4th 706, 747 [internal quotations omitted].) But even assuming Jones had made a prima facie case, he still cannot satisfy step two of the Batson analysis because the prosecutor’s asserted justifications for striking the jurors were race-neutral. She dismissed one juror because she had previously served on a hung-jury and dismissed two others for lack of life experience. Courts have upheld strikes made for such reasons. (See People v. Manibusan (2013) 58 Cal.4th 40, 78; People v. Lomax (2010) 49 Cal.4th 530, 575.) The trial court did not err.

Defendant’s statements to police were not involuntary even though police implied defendant would receive leniency in exchange for a confession and lied to him about the strength of the evidence. Jones also argued that his confession was involuntary because the police implied that he would only be sent to a juvenile camp for a short period of time if he confessed to the murder and attempted murders, told him that his father might face charges for being the owner of the gun used in the crimes, and then falsely represented to him that they had his fingerprints on the murder weapon and witnesses who had identified him as the shooter. The Court of Appeal rejected the involuntariness argument. Promises of leniency do not render a confession involuntary unless the promise “was the motivating cause of the decision to speak.” (People v. McCurdy (2014) 59 Cal.4th 1063, 1088.) Here, before detectives made the implied promise, Jones had already told them he was at the crime scene, that the gun belonged to his father, and that he had given the gun to his fellow gang members to use. After the implied promise, Jones actually retracted some of his statements. Accordingly, the promise was not the motivating cause of his decision to speak. And while the officers did use deceptive statements about the strength of the evidence, such a tactic does not render a confession involuntary unless it is “of a type reasonably likely to procure an untrue statement.” (People v. Williams (200) 49 Cal.4th 405, 443.) Here, despite the deceptive statements concerning his fingerprints being on the gun and eyewitnesses identifying him as the shooter, Jones continued to deny that he was the shooter and minimized his role in the shootings. Under the totality of the circumstances, his statements to police were not involuntary.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B263800.PDF