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Denial of Batson challenge at TPR trial affirmed

State v. R.D.W., Sr., 2018AP351, 6/19/18, District 1, (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

There were only 3 black jurors among the 25 on the panel for the grounds trial in this TPR cases. The ADA used peremptory challenges to strike all of them. The ensuing Batson hearing concerned only one–Juror 2. As proof of non-discriminatory intent, the DA filed a copy of her NAACP membership card, showed her Coretta Scott King tattoo, and explained why she struck Juror 2.

When the defense makes a Batson challenge, the trial court must hold a hearing where: (1) the defendant must establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination; (2) the DA must articulate a race neutral explanation for her striking a juror; and (3) the trial court must determine whether the defendant has established purposeful discrimination.  See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 97-98 (1986). Because the DA struck all 3 Black jurors, it was undisputed that R.D.W. satisfied Step 1.

The court of appeals held that the State satisfied Step 2 when the DA explained she struck Juror 2 because the physical abuse of a child was at issue and Juror 2 had no experience children in either her personal or professional life. Opinion ¶24.

As for Step 3, R.D.W. bore the burden of proof and the court of appeals held that he failed to prove discriminatory intent:

¶29 Additionally, the evidence in the record supports the trial court’s finding that R.D.W., Sr. had failed to show discriminatory intent. The State and GAL denied any discriminatory intent and even R.D.W., Sr.’s own trial counsel stated on the record that he did not believe the prosecutor was racially biased. R.D.W., Sr. points to no evidence to rebut their denials. The record shows that the trial issue was physical abuse of a child. Thus, the fact that it is undisputed that Juror 2 was young, single, and childless shows the State’s concerns about her lack of experience with children to be a rational, not pretextual, concern. The State’s consideration of the fact that Juror 2 worked as a CNA, an occupation usually associated with working with adults, again demonstrated support for the State’s reasonable concern about her lack of experience with children. The prosecutor’s membership in the NAACP and her Coretta Scott King tattoo are further evidence of her lack of racial bias, supporting her denial of purposeful discrimination. None of these facts were disputed by R.D.W., Sr., and all support the trial court’s finding of non-discriminatory intent.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Stephen Sawyer June 22, 2018, 11:44 am

    I find the NAACP membership card and tattoo of Mrs. King to show only a lack of personal racial bias against African-Americans, which, while laudable, does absolutely nothing to refute the notion that the ADA might have made a conscious decision to strike African-American jurors based upon race to gain some sort of perceived advantage in the trial. The only relevant factor was the explanation for the use of the peremptory challenge on that particular juror. However, the use of peremptory challenges to strike ALL THREE of the African-American jurors from the panel certainly raises suspicions.

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