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COA rejects arguments Batson should extend to juror age

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A trial court did not err in overruling a defendant’s Batson objection to the removal of two African-Americans from the jury during his trial for drug charges, the Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

Willie Bigsbee challenged his two convictions of Class A felony dealing in cocaine, claiming the court should have granted his Batson challenge and that the evidence didn’t support his convictions.

Bigsbee was arrested and charged with three counts of Class A felony dealing in cocaine following his sale of drugs to a confidential informant. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the first count, which addressed Bigsbee’s interaction with the informant in December 2010.

The state struck an African-American man and an African-American woman – two of four African-Americans - from the venire panel. The state struck the man from the panel because he seemed confused and to be asleep at one point; it struck the woman from the panel because she was 18 years old and did not think there was a drug problem in the area. The state noted it had also struck two Caucasian members of the panel due to their relatively young ages.

The trial court overruled Bigsbee’s Batson objection, which the COA upheld. He claimed Batson should be used to bar parties from using preemptory strikes to remove potential jurors on the basis of age, but the appellate court quickly dismissed his claim. They cited Price v. State, 725 N.E. 2d 82, 87 (Ind. 2000), which held challenging a juror due to his or her young age does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, and “we are not free to disregard our Supreme Court’s precedent,” Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote in Willie Bigsbee v. State of Indiana, 34A02-1201-CR-60.

There was also sufficient evidence to establish that Bigsbee sold cocaine to the confidential informant on two occasions.

 

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