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Name: People v. Long
Case #: H033197
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/29/2010

A business traveler’s room is an inhabited dwelling for purposes of first degree robbery while the occupant is doing business as well as resting. Appellant was convicted of first degree robbery of a prostitute in a motel room. Appellant argued that the evidence was insufficient to show that the victim was in an inhabited place, an element required for a finding of first degree robbery. The court found that there was sufficient evidence that the victim inhabited the rooms at the time she was robbed by virtue of socializing with a friend and eating meals in the hotel room.
In assessing a Batson/Wheeler challenge, the trial court must make a sincere and reasoned attempt to evaluate the prosecutor’s explanation and to make an adequate record of its findings. A “global” finding by the trial court is insufficient. The prosecutor, the victim, the police officer, and appellant were of Vietnamese descent. After the prosecutor exercised her ninth peremptory challenge, the defendant made a motion questioning the prosecutor’s peremptory challenges to three individuals with Vietnamese names. As to one of the challenges, the prosecutor explained that she based her challenge on the prospective juror’s failure to contribute or to participate in discussion ensuing in response to the court’s general questions. She stated she was also concerned by his body language. The trial court indicated that it was satisfied with the prosecutor’s explanation that the challenges were not based on the juror’s origins. However, the record revealed the prosecutor’s first reason was erroneous in that the prospective juror had volunteered information and that the prosecutor’s description that he did not participate was incorrect. The appellate court noted that when the trial judge makes a general, global finding that the prosecutor’s reasons are valid, and at least one of the reasons is demonstrably false, the record is inadequate to show that the trial judge met its obligations to make a sincere and reasoned attempt to evaluate the prosecutor’s stated reasons for exercising its challenge. Because the exclusion by peremptory challenge of a single juror on the basis or race or ethnicity is an error of constitutional magnitude, the court reversed the judgment.