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Name: People v. Stevens
Case #: S034704
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/04/2007
Summary

The use of peremptory challenges to strike a juror on the basis of group membership violates the right to a jury drawn from a cross section of the community and the right to equal protection. (People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258; Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79.) A prima facie case of discrimination requires justification for the motion to strike and where the reasons provided are supported or plausible, the court is not required to further question the prosecutor or make a detailed finding. In this death penalty appeal, the prosecutor’s explanation that the reason for challenging the ultimately dismissed jurors was that they appeared ambivalent as to the death penalty was sufficient justification. While disapproving of doing a comparative analysis for the first time on appeal of jurors dismissed as compared to jurors seated, the court did not refuse to perform the analysis but found no purposeful discrimination. The lying-in-wait special circumstance sufficiently performs the narrowing function of a first degree murder to support the enhanced penalty of death.