This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Filed August 21, 2001
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 00061407
Mike Hatch, Minnesota Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Donna J. Wolfson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John G. Westrick, Tammy L. Merkins, Westrick & McDowall-Nix, PLLP, 400 Minnesota Building, 46 East Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Robert D. Miller, Robert D. Miller & Associates, 50 Whitney Square Building, 210 North Second Street, Suite 101, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from a conviction of felon in possession of a firearm, appellant, a Hispanic male, argues that the district court erred in ruling that the prosecutor’s peremptory challenge of an African-American female juror did not constitute a prima facie case of racial discrimination when the district court had previously rejected the prosecutor’s peremptory challenge of a Hispanic female juror. We affirm.
Appellant Chato Gonzalez was charged with felon in possession of a firearm. Minn. Stat. §§ 624.713, subd. 1(b) 2, and 609.11 (1999). During the jury selection process, the prosecution sought to strike a member of the venire who, like Gonzalez, was Hispanic. Gonzalez objected based upon the holding in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89, 106 S. Ct. 1712, 1719 (1986), and the district court found that Gonzalez had demonstrated a prima facie case of discrimination. The court also rejected the prosecution’s offer of a race-neutral explanation, based on the prospective juror’s affirmative answer to a question of whether police officers can make mistakes, noting that all prospective jurors had answered in the affirmative.
The prosecution then attempted a peremptory challenge to another prospective juror who was an African-American female. Gonzalez again objected based upon Batson, and the prosecution offered a race-neutral explanation. The court determined that Gonzalez had failed to present a prima facie case of discrimination, distinguishing this challenge from the one it had previously rejected. The court noted that there had been only one potential Hispanic juror in the venire, but several other minorities, including another African-American, had not been challenged and would be serving on the jury.
At trial, Gonzalez was convicted and sentenced to 60 months. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Whether racial discrimination in the exercise of a peremptory challenge has been shown is “an essentially factual determination” that typically turns largely on the trial court’s evaluation of credibility. State v. James, 520 N.W.2d 399, 403-4 (Minn. 1994) (quotation omitted). We apply the clearly erroneous standard of review to this factual determination. Id. at 404.
In Batson, the Supreme Court established a three-step process to determine whether a peremptory challenge is motivated by discriminatory intent. Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-98, 106 S. Ct. at 1723-24. First, the defendant must make a prima facie showing that the challenge was exercised on the basis of race. Id. at 96, 106 S. Ct. at 1723. Second, when such a prima facie showing has been made, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to articulate a race-neutral reason for the challenge. Id. at 97, 106 S. Ct. at 1723. Finally, if the prosecutor establishes a race-neutral reason for the challenge, the district court must determine whether there has been purposeful discrimination. Id. at 98, 106 S. Ct. at 1724. The Supreme Court later extended the holding in Batson, stating that the “race [of a defendant] is irrelevant to a defendant’s standing to object to the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges to potential jurors of a different race.” Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 416, 111 S. Ct. 1364, 1373 (1991).
After Gonzalez’s counsel objected and argued that the prosecution’s challenge of the African-American prospective juror was race-based, the prosecutor offered a race-neutral explanation for striking the juror. The district court determined that the prosecutor’s explanation was unnecessary because Gonzalez had not established a prima facie case that the challenge was based on the race of the potential juror. To establish a prima facie case of discrimination in the jury selection process, the defendant must show “that the relevant circumstances ‘raise an inference’ that the prosecutor used the peremptory challenge to exclude a member of the venire ‘on account of’ that person’s race.” State v. Scott, 493 N.W.2d 546, 548 (Minn. 1992) (quoting Batson, 476 U.S. at 96, 106 S. Ct. at 1723). In support of this decision, the district court noted that other minorities had not been challenged by the prosecution and would be impaneled on the jury.
Gonzalez argues that, once the district court rejected the earlier peremptory challenge by the prosecution to the Hispanic juror, upon a finding of discriminatory intent, a prima facie case of discrimination is imputed to all subsequent challenges. While Batson stands for the proposition that the prosecution’s discriminatory conduct within the case is relevant to the court’s prima facie determination, we are not persuaded that a prima facie case is automatically established for all peremptory challenges after the attempt to strike the Hispanic juror. Instead, the existence of a prima facie case requires review of all relevant circumstances. See Batson, 476 U.S. at 96, 106 S. Ct. at 1723. Here, the relevant circumstances, supporting the district court’s decision that a prima facie case was not shown, are that the prosecution (1) used its first two challenges to strike white males, and (2) did not challenge several minorities, including another African-American. See Batson, 476 U.S. at 97, 106 S. Ct. at 1723.
Gonzalez contends that the district court’s decision was based on the fact that Gonzalez was not African-American, and this violated the Supreme Court’s holding in Powers. Gonzalez misconstrues the district court’s reasoning. The district court did not base its decision on the fact that Gonzalez was Hispanic and the prospective juror was African-American. Instead, the court, while recognizing that Gonzalez had standing to object, found no reason to believe that the challenge was exercised on the basis of race. In fact, the Powers court anticipated the very distinction made by the district court between the two peremptory challenges, stating that
[r]acial identity between the defendant and the excused person * * * may provide one of the easier cases to establish both a prima facie case and a conclusive showing that wrongful discrimination has occurred. But to say that the race of the defendant may be relevant to discerning bias in some cases does not mean that it will be a factor in others * * * .
Powers,499 U.S. at 416, 111 S. Ct. at 1373-74.
The district court’s decision to accept the peremptory challenge was not clearly erroneous.