California Landmark Cases Dealing With Peremptory Challenges

"A party may not use peremptory challenges to remove prospective jurors solely on the basis of group bias. Group bias is a presumption that jurors are biased merely because they are members of an identifiable group distinguished on racial, religious, ethnic, or similar grounds." (People v. Fuentes (1991) 54 Cal.3d 707, 713.) "The use of peremptory challenges to remove prospective jurors on the sole ground of group bias violates the right to trial by a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under article I, section 16 of the California Constitution as well as the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution." (People v. Burgener (2003) 29 Cal.4th 833, 863 (Burgener).) "A party who suspects improper use of peremptory challenges must raise a timely objection and make a prima facie showing that one or more jurors has been excluded on the basis of group or racial identity. . . . Once a prima facie showing has been made, the prosecutor then must carry the burden of showing that he or she had genuine nondiscriminatory reasons for the challenges at issue." (People v. Jenkins (2000) 22 Cal.4th 900, 993.) "The prosecutor need only identify facially valid race-neutral i.e., nondiscriminatory reasons why the prospective jurors were excused. The explanations need not justify a challenge for cause. 'Jurors may be excused based on "hunches" and even "arbitrary" exclusion is permissible, so long as the reasons are not based on impermissible group bias. ' " (People v. Gutierrez (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1083, 1122.) "The justification need not support a challenge for cause, and even a 'trivial' reason, if genuine and neutral, will suffice." (People v. Arias (1996) 13 Cal.4th 92, 136.) "A prospective juror may be excused based upon facial expressions, gestures, hunches, and even for arbitrary or idiosyncratic reasons." (People v. Lenix (2008) 44 Cal.4th 602, 613 (Lenix).) If the prosecutor gives reasons for a peremptory challenge of a juror that are facially neutral or nondiscriminatory, the trial court then "determines whether the defendant has proven purposeful discrimination. The ultimate burden of persuasion regarding racial motivation rests with, and never shifts from, the opponent of the strike i.e., peremptory challenge." (Lenix, supra, 44 Cal.4th at pp. 612-613.) "In determining whether the defendant ultimately has carried his burden of proving purposeful racial discrimination or other group bias, 'the trial court "must make 'a sincere and reasoned attempt to evaluate the prosecutor's explanation in light of the circumstances of the case as then known, his knowledge of trial techniques, and his observations of the manner in which the prosecutor has examined members of the venire and has exercised challenges for cause or peremptorily . . . .' "' . . . 'All that matters is that the prosecutor's reason for exercising the peremptory challenge is sincere and legitimate, legitimate in the sense of being nondiscriminatory.' A reason that makes no sense is nonetheless 'sincere and legitimate' as long as it does not deny equal protection." (People v. Guerra (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1067, 1100-1101 (Guerra).) "'The trial court has a duty to determine the credibility of the prosecutor's proffered explanations' , and it should be suspicious when presented with reasons that are unsupported or otherwise implausible ." (People v. Silva (2001) 25 Cal.4th 345, 385.) "When the prosecutor's stated reasons are both inherently plausible and supported by the record, the trial court need not question the prosecutor or make detailed findings. But when the prosecutor's stated reasons are either unsupported by the record, inherently implausible, or both, more is required of the trial court than a global finding that the reasons appear sufficient." (Id. at p. 386.) "The trial court's ruling on this issue is reviewed for substantial evidence." (People v. McDermott (2002) 28 Cal.4th 946, 971.) "We review a trial court's determination regarding the sufficiency of a prosecutor's justifications for exercising peremptory challenges '"with great restraint."' We presume that a prosecutor uses peremptory challenges in a constitutional manner and give great deference to the trial court's ability to distinguish bona fide reasons from sham excuses. So long as the trial court makes a sincere and reasoned effort to evaluate the nondiscriminatory justifications offered, its conclusions are entitled to deference on appeal." (Burgener, supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 864.) The use of peremptory challenges to excuse prospective jurors solely on the basis of a presumed group bias, based on membership in a racial group, violates both the federal and state and Constitutions. (Batson, supra, 476 U.S. at p. 89; Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal.3d at pp. 276-277.) However, a prosecutor is presumed to have exercised peremptory challenges in a constitutional manner (People v. Alvarez (1996) 14 Cal.4th 155, 193), and a defendant bears the burden of making a prima facie showing of purposeful discrimination. (Ibid.) To make this showing, the defendant must demonstrate that the persons excluded are members of a cognizable group (People v. Turner (1994) 8 Cal.4th 137, 164 (Turner), disapproved on other grounds in People v. Griffin (2004) 33 Cal.4th 536, 555, fn. 5 (Griffin)), and produce "evidence sufficient to permit the trial judge to draw an inference that discrimination has occurred." (Johnson v. California (2005) 545 U.S. 162, 170 125 S.Ct. 2410.) "When a trial court denies a Wheeler motion because it finds no prima facie case of group bias was established, the reviewing court considers the entire record of voir dire." (People v. Davenport (1995) 11 Cal.4th 1171, 1200 (Davenport), disapproved on other grounds by Griffin, supra, 33 Cal.4th at p. 555, fn. 5.) A trial court's determination that no prima facie showing of group bias was made is subject to review based on whether substantial evidence supports the ruling. (People v. Jenkins (2000) 22 Cal.4th 900, 993.) If the trial court overrules the objection based on no prima facie showing, we affirm the ruling "if the record 'suggests grounds upon which the prosecutor might reasonably have challenged' the jurors in question . . . ." (People v. Howard (1992) 1 Cal.4th 1132, 1155 (Howard), quoting People v. Bittaker (1989) 48 Cal.3d 1046, 1092.) A legitimate reason for peremptorily challenging a juror need not be a reason that makes sense, but instead need only be a reason that does not offend equal protection. (People v. Reynoso (2003) 31 Cal.4th 903, 924.)