ILNews

Judges disagree on case involving juror strikes

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share


A Marion County deputy prosecutor's striking of potential jurors has divided an Indiana Court of Appeals panel, with judges disagreeing about whether it should second-guess a lower court's finding that no racial discrimination was in play in striking the African-American jurors.

The appellate court issued a 14-page decision April 6 in Edward Killebrew v. State, No. 49A05-0905-CR-246, which reverses and remands a decision from Marion Superior Judge Steven Eichholtz that struck down Edward Killebrew's objection to the prosecution's use of peremptory challenges to strike all African-Americans from the jury pool. Judge Paul Mathias wrote a five-page dissent, saying he would affirm the case because he reads precedent from the Supreme Court of the United States differently than his colleagues.

"Even though there was some evidence tending to prove racial discrimination, I would not second-guess the credibility and demeanor judgments of the trial court in making the ultimate factual determination of whether the prosecutor's proffered race-neutral explanations were believable or simply pretextual," Judge Mathias wrote in his dissent.

The case involves Edward Killebrew's charges for felony cocaine dealing and misdemeanor resisting law enforcement charges in August 2008, and the subsequent jury selection for his trial that began in March 2009.

Five African-Americans were called as part of the jury venire and the state challenged each of them to be struck - one was a convicted felon and another was the subject of five police reports, while the state struck another because she was a nurse and the deputy prosecutor said the office has a policy of always striking nurses because they are too compassionate. Another was stricken after saying a relative was convicted of drug dealing and he felt the police had acted unfairly in that case, though a white juror with a similar statement on his jury questionnaire remained seated. The fifth person was struck after the deputy prosecutor asserted the man had been too "emphatic" in agreeing with how defense counsel described the state's burden of proof in criminal cases.

In analyzing the case, the appellate panel turned to the landmark juror challenge case of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986), that established a three-part test to determine if a challenge was valid. The majority found that in recent years, the federal justices have made it clear that "courts need not accept any facially neutral reason for striking a juror and should consider 'all relevant circumstances' in assessing Batson-challenged strikes.

The majority dealt with the main two challenges to individuals who'd mentioned potential bias against the police, but didn't address the nurse-challenge in anything more than a footnote: "Additionally, reasonable minds could differ on the desirability of having nurses serve as jurors. However, without evidence that the deputy prosecutor here was being untruthful with respect to having a policy of routinely striking nurses like A.S. in all cases, regardless of race, we cannot second guess that claim."

Ultimately, Judges Michael Barnes and Elaine Brown found that there's no meaningful distinction between some of the juror strikes and non-challenges.

"Batson violations, hopefully, are and should be rare. It should not be impossible, however, for a defendant to prove a Batson violation. Neither trial courts nor appellate courts should simply blithely accept a facially neutral reason for striking African-Americans from a jury panel, especially when all African-Americans have been struck. The possibility of purposeful discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges is very much alive and real...," Judge Barnes wrote. "Although there is no indication that Marion County prosecutors systematically exclude minorities from juries, courts must be vigilant in ensuring that the jury selection process in criminal cases is free from any hint of bias."

But Judge Mathias disagreed with his colleagues' caselaw interpretations and findings, admitting that the case was very close and evidence of possible discrimination did exist enough to overturn the trial court's judgment. He wrote that the majority read a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case too broadly, because the justices had also offered other reasons for the prosecution's challenges to jurors and past cases don't equate to the facts at issue here.

"Although I admit that this is a very close call, under the standard of review applicable to the issues before us, I cannot say that the trial court's decision to overrule Killebrew's Batson objections constitutes clear error," he wrote.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

ADVERTISEMENT