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Circuit judges order court to take another look at Batson challenge

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Based on the record before them, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judges were unable to make an informed decision about the District Court’s decision to deny a defendant’s Batson challenge, so the judges sent the case back to the lower court.

In United States of America v. Anthony Rutledge, No.10-2734, Anthony Rutledge appealed the denial of his Batson challenge relating to the removal of the only two African-Americans from the jury pool. The prosecutor moved to strike Mr. Powell based on his response to a question that mentioned he thought that his views might be overruled if on the jury, that the others will think he was taking Rutledge’s side because they were both the same race. The prosecutor moved to strike Ms. Martin because she appeared agitated and frustrated during voir dire. Both potential jurors said there was no reason they couldn’t be a fair and impartial juror.

The District Court accepted the prosecutor’s reasons, which were not based on race, for striking the two but didn’t say why it was accepting the strike of Ms. Martin. Rutledge was convicted at trial, although the opinion does not state what he was charged with.

The third step of a Batson challenge is at issue here – the trial court deciding whether the opponent of the strike has proved purposeful discrimination. The 7th Circuit concluded that a remand is necessary for the District Court to make explicit findings for both jurors, citing United States v. McMath, 559 F.3d 657, 666 (7th Circ. 2009), and United States v. Taylor, 509 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 2007).

In regards to Martin, the trial court never credited the demeanor-based reason for the prosecutor’s peremptory strike, yet just repeated that the demeanor-based justification was a “nonracial-related reason,” wrote Judge Diane Wood. The District judge never evaluated whether her demeanor can credibly be said to have exhibited the basis for the strike attributed by the prosecutor.

In regards to Powell, the court’s statement that the prosecutor’s reason for striking him was “nonracially-related” did not do the job, continued the judge.

The federal appellate court also addressed a “potential worrisome element” in the resolution of the Powell strike – that the prosecutor in the case stated she is African-American as though to possibly convince the judge that her race-neutral explanations were credible.

“The abbreviated exchange on the record is troubling, though, because it can be read as a request by the government for the judge to assume that simply because the prosecutor is herself African-American, she would not engage in prohibited discrimination,” she wrote. “While a judge may consider a variety of factors in making a credibility determination, it would be wrong for a judge to assume that a prosecutor of the same race as a juror would not engage in discrimination against that juror simply because of their shared race.”

On remand, the District Court must make findings on the issue mentioned in the opinion and if the passage of time prevents the District Court from making such findings, or if it finds the prosecutor’s reasons aren’t credible, then it must vacate Rutledge’s conviction.

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

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  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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