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Rice v. Collins

Supreme Court of the United States

December 5, 2005, Argued ; January 18, 2006, Decided

No. 04-52

Opinion

 [*335]   [***830]  Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

LEdHN[1A][] [1A] Concerned that, in this habeas corpus case, a federal court set aside reasonable state-court determinations of fact in favor of its own debatable interpretation of the record, we granted certiorari. Our review confirms that the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit erred, misapplying settled rules that limit its role and authority.

 [*336]  I

After a 4-day trial in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles, a jury convicted Steven Martell Collins on one count of possessing cocaine. The conviction was all the more serious because it subjected him to California's three strikes rule for sentencing. The question at issue in this federal habeas corpus action, however, is the California courts' rejection of Collins' argument that the prosecutor struck a young, African-American [****7]  woman, Juror 16, from the panel on account of her race. A second African-American juror was also the subject of a peremptory strike, and although Collins challenged that strike in the trial court, on appeal he objected only to the excusal of Juror 16.

Even prior to this Court's decision in  Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S. Ct. 1712, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69 (1986), HN1[] California courts barred peremptory challenges to jurors based on race.  People v. Wheeler, 22 Cal.3d 258, 148 Cal. Rptr. 890, 583 P.2d 748 (1978). Although our recent decision in  Johnson v. California, 545 U.S. 162, 125 S. Ct. 2410, 162 L. Ed. 2d 129 (2005), disapproved of the manner in which Wheeler  [**973]  and Batson were implemented in some California cases, the state courts in this case used the correct analytical framework in considering and ruling upon the objection to the prosecutorial strike.

LEdHN[2][] [2] As race-neutral explanations for striking Juror 16, the prosecutor said that Juror 16 had rolled her eyes in response to a question from the court; that Juror 16 was young and might be too tolerant of a drug crime; and that Juror 16 was single and lacked ties to the community. A further, more troubling part of the prosecutor's unorganized explanation was her reference [****8]  to Juror 16's gender. The trial court, correctly, disallowed any reliance on that ground. The trial court, furthermore, which had the benefit of observing the prosecutor firsthand over the course of the proceedings, rejected Collins' challenge.

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546 U.S. 333 *; 126 S. Ct. 969 **; 163 L. Ed. 2d 824 ***; 2006 U.S. LEXIS 913 ****; 74 U.S.L.W. 4095; 19 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 69

BERTRAM RICE, WARDEN, et al., Petitioners v. STEVEN MARTELL COLLINS

Subsequent History: Subsequent appeal at  Collins v. Rice, 451 F.3d 1092, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 16966 (9th Cir. Cal., July 7, 2006)

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

 Collins v. Rice, 365 F.3d 667, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 27767 (9th Cir. Cal., 2004)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

Juror, trial court, credibility, peremptory challenge, court of appeals, race-neutral, gender, state-court, factual determination, state court, peremptory, demeanor, reasons, youth

Criminal Law & Procedure, Juries & Jurors, Peremptory Challenges, Prohibitions, Proving Discriminatory Use, Appellate Review, Standards of Review, Contrary & Unreasonable Standard, Unreasonable Application, Review, Presumption of Correctness, Appeals, Prosecutorial Misconduct, General Overview, Specific Claims, Prosecutorial Misconduct, Contrary to Clearly Established Federal Law