Group Bias Peremptory Challenges In California

People v. Wheeler (1978) prohibits the use of peremptory challenges to exclude all or most members of an identifiable group of citizens on racial, religious, ethnic, or other similar grounds, solely because of a presumed "group bias." (22 Cal. 3d at p. 280; see also Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79, 89 [106 S. Ct. 1712, 1719, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69].) There is a rebuttable presumption that a peremptory challenge has been made on a constitutionally permissible ground. ( People v. Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal. 3d at p. 278.) To overcome the presumption, the party making a Wheeler motion carries the initial burden to establish a prima facie case of group bias. (People v. Arias (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 92, 134-135 [51 Cal. Rptr. 2d 770, 913 P.2d 980].) To establish a prima facie case, the moving party is required not only to show that the persons excluded were members of a cognizable group; he must also show, from all the circumstances of the case, a strong likelihood that such persons were being challenged because of their group association. (People v. Welch (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 701, 745 [85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 203, 976 P.2d 754].) Once a prima facie case is established, the burden shifts to the other party to show that the peremptory challenges were not based on group bias. ( People v. Motton (1985) 39 Cal. 3d 596, 600 [217 Cal. Rptr. 416, 704 P.2d 176].) The erroneous denial of a defendant's Wheeler motion is reversible error per se. ( People v. Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal. 3d at p. 281.)