Wednesday, April 30, 2008

People v. Semien (Cal. Ct. App. - April 30, 2008)

Some peremptory challenges that are allegedly race-neutral are, I'm fairly convinced, based upon stereotype and pretext, and shouldn't be allowed. But then there are cases like this one.

Yes, the dismissed juror was the only African-American on the panel, and the defendant was an African-American charged with very serious crimes. But the juror was a pastor of a Baptist church, dealt with homeless people a great deal, and his wife worked in the county welfare department. As the prosecutor said in justifying the peremptory challenge: “He deals with homeless, and he’s in a situation where not only is his occupation one of forgiveness and sympathy, that’s the main gist of it, he’s in an occupation where he deals with underprivileged people who are homeless who require counseling and who he talks to. And I believe that that would put him in a situation where he would be more sympathetic towards a defendant, even though there’s a jury instruction right on point that they’re not supposed to take into consideration sympathy for a defendant. I also took into consideration that his wife works for the welfare department. This has nothing to do with [the pastor’s] ethnicity. I don’t know what the ethnicity of his wife is. But between the two, the[ir] combination of occupations is very sympathetic towards -- I don’t want to use the word ‘underdog,’ just towards people who may be in a situation where people are trying to bring charges against them."

I think that makes total sense. And, like Justice Sims, would affirm.