California Landmark Cases on Peremptory Challenges Based on Race
The exercise of peremptory challenges to eliminate prospective jurors because of their race violates the federal and California Constitutions. (People v. Williams (1997) 16 Cal.4th 635, 663 (Williams); see also People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258 at pp. 276-277.)
"The United States Supreme Court recently reiterated the applicable legal standards.
'First, the defendant must make out a prima facie case "by showing that the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose."
Second, once the defendant has made out a prima facie case, the "burden shifts to the State to explain adequately the racial exclusion" by offering permissible race-neutral justifications for the strikes.
Third, "if a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must then decide . . . whether the opponent of the strike has proved purposeful racial discrimination." ' " (People v. Gray (2005) 37 Cal.4th 168, 186.)
The prosecutor's explanation need not arise to the level justifying an exercise of a challenge for cause. (Williams, supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 664.)
"The law recognizes that a peremptory challenge may be predicated on a broad spectrum of evidence suggestive of juror partiality. The evidence may range from the obviously serious to the apparently trivial, from the virtually certain to the highly speculative. For example, a prosecutor may fear bias on the part of one juror because he has a record of prior arrests or has complained of police harassment, and on the part of another simply because his clothes or hair length suggest an unconventional lifestyle." (Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal.3d at p. 275.)
Adequate justification by the prosecutor may be no more than a "hunch" about the prospective juror, so long as it shows that the peremptory challenges were exercised for reasons other than impermissible group bias. (Williams, supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 664; see also People v. Stanley (2006) 39 Cal.4th 913, 936 " 'A reason that makes no sense is nonetheless "sincere and legitimate" as long as it does not deny equal protection' "; People v. Box (2000) 23 Cal.4th 1153, 1186, fn. 6 even "arbitrary" exclusion is permissible, so long as the reasons are not based on impermissible group bias; accord, People v. Turner (1994) 8 Cal.4th 137, 171.)
"Because Wheeler motions call upon trial judges' personal observation, we view their rulings with 'considerable deference' on appeal. If the record 'suggests grounds upon which the prosecutor might reasonably have challenged' the jurors in question, we affirm. " (People v. Howard (1992) 1 Cal.4th 1132, 1155.) Only if "the record as a whole shows purposeful discrimination," despite the neutral explanations given, will we reverse. (People v. Silva (2001) 25 Cal.4th 345, 384.)
In People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258, the California Supreme Court stated, "we conclude that 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." (Wheeler, at pp. 276-277.) Batson reached the same conclusion based on the federal equal protection clause. (People v. Huggins (2006) 38 Cal.4th 175, 226.)
When a defendant asserts at trial the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges violates the federal Constitution because they are based on gender, the defendant must make out a prima facie case by showing the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose. The burden then shifts to the State to explain adequately the gender exclusion by offering permissible gender-neutral justifications for the challenges. Thereafter, if a gender-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must decide whether the opponent of the challenge has proven purposeful gender discrimination. The identical three-step procedure applies when the challenge is brought under the California Constitution. (Cf. People v. Cowan (2010) 50 Cal.4th 401, 447.) Respondent concedes women are a cognizable group for purposes of Wheeler analysis. (People v. Garceau (1993) 6 Cal.4th 140, 171; People v. Gray (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 781, 788.)
Penal Code Section 290 requires that persons who have been convicted of certain offenses register in accordance with the Sex Offender Registration Act.
The use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors on the basis of group bias violates the United States and California constitutions. (Batson, supra, 476 U.S. at p. 89; Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal.3d at pp. 276-277.) "Procedures governing motions alleging the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges are settled. 'First, the defendant must make out a prima facie case "by showing that the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose." . Second, once the defendant has made out a prima facie case, the "burden shifts to the State to explain adequately the racial exclusion" by offering permissible race-neutral justifications for the strikes. . Third, "if a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must then decide . . . whether the opponent of the strike has proved purposeful racial discrimination." .'" (People v. Riccardi (2012) 54 Cal.4th 758, 786.)
The trial court must make a sincere and reasoned attempt to evaluate the proffered explanation for challenging the juror in light of all of the circumstances. (People v. Fuentes (1991) 54 Cal.3d 707, 718.) "'The issue comes down to whether the trial court finds the prosecutor's race-neutral explanations to be credible. Credibility can be measured by, among other factors, the prosecutor's demeanor; by how reasonable, or how improbable, the explanations are; and by whether the proffered rationale has some basis in accepted trial strategy.'" (People v. Riccardi, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 787.)
"Accordingly, because the trial court is 'well positioned' to ascertain the credibility of the prosecutor's explanations and a reviewing court only has transcripts at its disposal, on appeal '"the trial court's decision on the ultimate question of discriminatory intent represents a finding of fact of the sort accorded great deference on appeal" and will not be overturned unless clearly erroneous.'" (People v. Riccardi, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 787.)