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Name: People v. Robinson
Case #: B149425
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 03/22/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. granted 6/9/04: S123938

Remand is required where the court erroneously cut short defendant’s Wheeler inquiry into the prosecutor’s exclusion of African-American jurors. The appellate court first held that the trial court did not err in finding that the prosecution properly exercised a peremptory challenge to excuse a black juror on the grounds that she worked in a religious profession. Although it is generally impermissible to exclude a potential juror due to religious affiliation, in this case the prosecutor could reasonably fear that potential juror’s work as a jail chaplain would render her unable to deliberate fairly. However, the trial court erred in short-circuiting the Wheeler inquiry as to two other African-American jurors, leaving the appellate court unable to determine from the record whether the prosecutor engaged in improper group bias. The appellate court remanded for a further Wheeler hearing as to those jurors, and noted that if the prosecutor was unable to recall the reasons for his challenge, the convictions would be reversed and defendant would be entitled to a new trial. On an unrelated issue, the appellate court rejected defendant’s argument that he was prevented from calling a key defense witness to the stand because of a trial court ruling that would have permitted that witness to be impeached with his prior statements, his gang affiliation, and his prior convictions. The court held that none of the evidence constituted prohibited character evidence, and further held that defendant waived the issue by failing to raise it below.