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Certain types of evidence that will be relevant to show that an opponent is using his peremptory challenges to strike jurors on the ground of group bias alone may include: that his opponent has struck most or all of the members of the identified group from the venire, or has used a disproportionate number of his peremptories against the group; that the jurors in question share only this one characteristic -- their membership in the group -- and that in all other respects they are as heterogeneous as the community as a whole; the failure of his opponent to engage these same jurors in more than desultory voir dire, or indeed to ask them any questions at all. Lastly, the defendant need not be a member of the excluded group in order to complain of a violation of the representative cross-section rule; yet if he is, and especially if in addition his alleged victim is a member of the group to which the majority of the remaining jurors belong, these facts may also be called to the court's attention.
Defendants were convicted of murdering a grocery store owner in the course of a robbery. Defendants were both black, while the man they were accused of murdering was white. The jury was all white. During voir dire, the prosecutor, over the objection of the defense attorney, struck each black from the jury using his peremptory challenges. Defendants moved for a mistrial, at which point the trial court offered the prosecutor a chance to explain the use of his challenges, which he declined to do. The trial court then denied defendants' motion. On appeal, defendants claimed they were denied their right to trial by an impartial jury.
Was there a showing that the prosecutor used his peremptory challenges on the ground of group bias alone, thereby necessitating the grant of defendants’ motion for a mistrial?
The court reversed, holding that the use of peremptory challenges to remove prospective jurors on the sole ground of group bias violated the right to trial by a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under Cal. Const., art I, § 16. The court held group bias existed when a party presumed that certain jurors were biased merely because they were members of an identifiable group distinguished on racial, religious, ethnic, or similar grounds, and contrasted it with specific bias, which related to the particular case on trial or the parties or witnesses thereto. The court held that while a party was not entitled to a petit jury that proportionately represented every group in the community, a party was constitutionally entitled to a jury that was as near an approximation of the ideal cross-section of the community as the process of random draw permitted. As to the remedy, the court held if a party believed his opponent was using his peremptory challenges to strike jurors on the ground of group bias alone, he must raise the point in timely fashion and make a prima facie case of such discrimination to the satisfaction of the trial court. Thus, the court held that defendants made a prima facie showing that the prosecutor was exercising peremptory challenges against black jurors on the ground of group bias alone, and the trial court therefore erred in ruling that the prosecutor was not required to respond to the allegation, and in denying defendants' motions for a mistrial without a rebuttal showing by the prosecutor that the challenges were each predicated on grounds of specific bias. The court further held the error was prejudicial per se.