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Justices address Batson challenges in 2 appeals

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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled on two cases Wednesday that stemmed from Batson challenges, and in doing so, articulated the standard of review of such challenges when a defendant raises a Batson challenge at the trial level, but then brings up a different argument on appeal.

In Joey Addison v. State of Indiana, No. 49S05-1105-CR-267, Joey Addison appealed the removal of one of the only three African-American venirepersons at his trial for murder. Addison – an African-American - intended to use the insanity defense. During voir dire, the court removed venireperson Turner – an African-American – because the state argued Turner said he would only rely on the doctors’ testimony regarding Addison’s sanity when deciding the case. Addison did not object to the removal of the other two African-Americans from the jury panel because the state gave race-neutral reasons for their removal.

The justices had a novel issue to address on appeal – how should an appellate court treat a defendant’s appellate claim when the defendant offered no substantive argument to the trial court as to why the state’s proffered reason for striking a black panelist is pretextual? Addison had made a Batson challenge regarding Turner, but he did not argue to the trial court that other nonblack jurors offered similar testimony as Turner but were not removed. He made that argument for the first time on appeal.

Turning to other jurisdictions for guidance, the justices decided that such claims could be addressed on appeal under Indiana’s fundamental error doctrine. Using that doctrine, the Supreme Court found that the state mischaracterized Turner’s statements that he would only rely on what the doctors said regarding Addison’s sanity, and that several other jurors made similar statements to Turner.

“This mischaracterization of Turner’s voir dire testimony is troubling and undermines the State’s proffered race-neutral reason for the strike,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote. The justices were left with the firm impression that the state’s proffered explanation for striking Turner was a mere pretext based on race, making a fair trial impossible. They ordered Addison be retried.

The justices also ruled on a Batson challenge in Jerrme Cartwright v. State of Indiana, No. 82S01-1109-CR-564, in which Jerrme Cartwright – an African-American who was on trial for attempted battery and unlawful possession of a firearm – argued that the state failed to meet its burden to show that its strike of venireperson Bard was not motivated by discriminatory purpose. Bard was the only African-American venireperson. The state struck Bard because he said at voir dire examination that he didn’t want to serve on the jury, that he took a diuretic that caused him to frequently use the restroom, and that he’s not a good listener. He also answered yes to the question of whether he or an immediate family member had been charged with or convicted of a crime.

The justices found the prosecutor didn’t run afoul of Batson for striking Bard based on these statements, and the record showed that nonblack venirepersons with problems like Bard’s were also dismissed from the jury. The Supreme Court affirmed Cartwright’s convictions.


 

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