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Judges reverse convictions due to Batson challenge error

May 28, 2014

A Marion County trial court erred when it overruled a man’s Batson challenge contesting the state’s use of a peremptory challenge to strike an African-American juror, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday. The appeals court overturned Tyrece Robertson’s convictions and ordered a new trial.

Robertson was charged with Class D felony attempted residential entry and Class B misdemeanor criminal mischief after allegedly trying to break into an apartment. During jury selection at his trial, the state used peremptory strikes to remove several potential jurors from the venier, including juror Lisenbee, who is African-American. Robertson raised a Batson challenge, which was overruled. Robertson was found guilty as charged.

“Both parties acknowledge that, in this case, neither Robertson nor the State had an opportunity to conduct voir dire of the other African-American member of the venire. Because the trial court did not move to the second step in the Batson analysis — requiring the State to present a facially race-neutral reason for using a peremptory strike — the court did not conclude that Robertson had established a prima facie case of discrimination,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in Tyrece Robertson v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1310-CR-487. “Yet, as Robertson points out, the only African-American juror that was subject to voir dire — Venireperson Lisenbee — was stricken from the jury. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the State used its peremptory challenges to strike the only African-American member of the venire.”

As such, Robertson’s rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution were violated, the judges ruled, so he should be retried.

 

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