COA: Trial court did not follow Batson regulations when dismissing Hispanic juror

A trial court did not follow Batson regulations when dismissing a Hispanic juror before the trial of a man convicted of Class D felony intimidation and Class A misdemeanor domestic battery, and as such the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed his convictions, finding the evidence enough for him to stand trial again.

Carlos Villaruel was charged with his intimidation and domestic battery charges in 2014 after police officers responded to a 911 call from Shayla Swank, who was crying and had a bloody lip and a mark on her eye. Officers noticed Villaruel was drunk, and he was later charged after he was combative with the officers who arrested him.

During jury selection for his trial, the state moved to strike for cause the only Hispanic candidate on the jury. Villaruel objected, citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S Ct. 1712 (1986), a United States Supreme Court case which said the use of peremptory challenges to remove a potential juror from the jury pool based on race violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The trial court said there was no Batson issue for Hispanics, and let the strike stand.

The COA said since the Batson decision, the U.S Supreme Court has also added challenges based on ethnicity, and said Batson also applies to ethnicity cases. “The trial court did not analyze Villaruel’s objection to the peremptory challenge and did not follow Batson, even though it applies to challenges based on ethnicity,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.  Because the trial court did not perform the Batson analysis, the COA reversed Villaruel’s convictions.

The COA did find there was enough evidence for Villaruel to stand trial a second time, and it would not violate double jeopardy rules. Villaruel argued he was drunk and what he was saying should not have been taken seriously, but the COA said voluntary drunkenness is not a valid defense.

The case is Carlos Villaruel v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1506-CR-544.


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