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Name: People v. Robinson
Case #: B149425
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 07/28/2003
Subsequent History: Rev. granted & transferred back to COA 11/25/03 in light of People v. Yeoman (2003) 31 Cal.4th 93

During voir dire in appellant’s trial for capital murder, the defendant contended that the prosecutor’s peremptory challenge of three black jurors was racially biased. The court stated that it could understand two of the challenges, but not the third, and called upon the prosecutor to give his reasons for excusing only the third juror. The prosecutor contended that he excused the juror because she worked in a religious profession (a jail chaplain) and therefore might be too sympathetic to defendants. The trial court accepted the explanation as objective. On appeal, appellant contended that excusing a juror based on religious beliefs is as impermissible as excluding jurors based on ethnicity. The appellate court found that there was no error in finding that the juror had been properly excused. The prosecution established that it felt she would not deliberate properly based upon her religious views and her position at the men’s jail. The record demonstrates permissible specific, rather than group, bias. However, even though the court ruled properly regarding the third juror, it improperly short-circuited the Wheeler requirements regarding the first two jurors, as the prosecutor was not called upon to explain the basis of the other two challenges. The appellate court therefore could not determine if the prosecutor engaged in improper group bias, and remand was required for a hearing to have the prosecutor explain race neutral reasons for each of the challenges. During trial, the defendant advised the court that he intended to introduce the testimony of a witness who overheard a third party confessing to the murder. In ruling upon the admissibility of the evidence, the court indicated that it would also permit the prosecution to impeach the witness by asking him about defendant’s statements that he intended to have witnesses who spoke to the police about the murder “taken care of.” Appellant subsequently chose not to introduce the witness’s testimony because of the potential impeachment. The appellate court here found no error. The statements were admissible as admissions against interest, and were relevant on the issue of appellant’s guilt. The ruling did not prevent appellant from presenting an affirmative defense. Appellant’s statements were admissible, and he failed to make a record of an objection to the evidence. He was “forced to make some hard choices” but this was not the fault of the court.