District Attorney Selective Sentencing Based In Victim's Race Claim Was Denied

In People v. McPeters (1992) 2 Cal. 4th 1148 9 Cal. Rptr. 2d 834, 832 P.2d 146, decided before United States v. Armstrong (1996), the defendant sought discovery to support his claim that the district attorney was selectively seeking the death penalty or life without parole sentences against homicide defendants whose victims were White. He submitted in support of his discovery motion a study listing homicide victims, indicating their race and whether or not a death penalty or a life without parole sentence had been imposed. The study showed that all death or life without parole sentences were meted out in cases involving White victims, although only one-third of all willful homicide victims in the county were White. As the court explained, this did not provide a basis for the requested discovery: "The study did not describe or analyze the facts or circumstances of any case, other than the sentence and the race of the victim. For example, it did not attempt to distinguish between single and multiple homicide cases, nor did it attempt to account for nonracial factors that could have explained differences in charging and sentencing." (Id. at p. 1170) Clearly, in order for a trial court to examine "all relevant factors" and determine whether "distinguishable legitimate prosecutorial factors" justify a decision to prosecute one individual but not others, it must have before it sufficient facts about the other individuals and their conduct. (Olvis, supra, 97 F.3d at p. 744.)