This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996)




State of Minnesota,



Robyn Lynn Hager,


Filed December 8, 1998


Lansing, Judge

Steele County District Court

File No. K797485

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, Natalie Hudson, Assistant Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Douglas L. Ruth, Steele County Attorney, 317 North Cedar, Owatonna, MN 55060 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Jodie L. Carlson, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Robyn L. Hager, PO Box 357, Medford, MN 55049 (pro se supplemental brief for appellant)

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Short, Judge.



This appeal from conviction for controlled-substance offenses raises constitutional issues relating to the use of peremptory challenges. We find no constitutional violation in the state's use of its peremptory challenges, and we reject the additional issues raised in a pro se brief because they are without a factual or legal basis. We affirm.


A Steele County jury found Robyn Hager guilty of third- and fifth-degree controlled substance violations. The jury was selected from a venire of 26 persons that included two persons of color: juror #2, an African American, and juror #17, a Latina.

The prosecuting attorney used peremptory challenges to strike both juror #2 and juror #17. Hager's attorney objected to the prosecution's use of its peremptory challenges to strike the only two people of color, arguing that the action demonstrated discriminatory intent prohibited by Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986).

In response to the judge's inquiry on the reasons for the peremptory challenges, the prosecutor stated that he used a peremptory challenge on juror #2 because she was related to a person who had been involved in the criminal justice system on a number of occasions. The prosecutor stated that he used a peremptory challenge on juror #17 because she knew Hager, knew Hager's brother, "and associates with him and talks with him." The district court found that the state had provided racially neutral reasons for the strikes and allowed the jury to be impaneled.

Hager appeals the district court's ruling, contending that the court erred by failing to make a factual determination that the peremptory strikes were valid and not a pretext for purposeful discrimination. In a pro se brief Hager raises additional challenges of judicial and juror bias.


The Equal Protection Clause prohibits the use of peremptory challenges to remove potential jurors solely on the basis of race. Batson, 476 U.S. at 84, 106 S. Ct. at 1713; State v. Stewart, 514 N.W.2d 559, 562 (Minn. 1994). In determining whether a peremptory challenge is constitutionally improper, the district court makes "an essentially factual determination" of whether the objecting party has proved that the challenged peremptory strikes were made with discriminatory intent. State v. Gaitan, 536 N.W.2d 11, 15-16 (Minn. 1995) (citing Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 362-66, 111 S. Ct. 1859, 1868-69 (1991); State v. McRae, 494 N.W.2d 252, 254 (Minn. 1992)). A district court's finding on intent and motivation for exercising a peremptory challenge is accorded considerable deference, and a reviewing court will reverse only a clearly erroneous finding. Hernandez, 500 U.S. at 368-69, 111 S. Ct. at 1871; State v. James, 520 N.W.2d 399, 403-04 (Minn. 1994).

The Supreme Court has laid out a three-step process for a trial court's evaluation of a claim that the prosecutor used a peremptory challenge with racially discriminatory intent.

First, the defendant must make a prima facie showing that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges on the basis of race. Second, if the requisite showing has been made, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to articulate a race-neutral explanation for striking the jurors in question. Finally, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has carried [the] burden of proving purposeful discrimination.

Hernandez, 500 U.S. at 358-59, 111 S. Ct. at 1866 (citations omitted); see Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.02, subd. 6a(3) (three-step process); Gaitan, 536 N.W.2d at 15 (quoting and applying the Hernandez three-step process).

The trial court implicitly found Hager made the required prima facie showing by asking the prosecutor to state reasons for the challenges. At this second step of the inquiry, the challenged party must provide a reason that is racially neutral on its face. Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 767-68, 115 S. Ct. 1769, 1771 (1995). The prosecutor explained that juror #2 was related to a person who had been involved in the criminal justice system a number of times and that juror #17 knew the defendant and the defendant's brother and associated with the brother. The district court implicitly accepted the reasons by asking Hager's attorney to further support his motion. Hager's attorney offered no further support.

Hager argues Batson required the trial court to make findings on whether the reason given for disputed peremptory challenges "was a pretext for purposeful discrimination." Although the trial court has a duty to determine if the challenged party's reasons are pretextual, McRae, 494 N.W.2d at 257 (citing Hernandez, 500 U.S. at 359, 111 S. Ct. at 1866), neither Batson, its progeny, or state court interpretations require a court to make explicit findings on pretext. See Stewart, 514 N.W.2d at 564 (failure of a trial court to rule explicitly on a Batson challenge does not require a new trial).

We agree that trial procedure and appellate review are assisted by specific findings on whether the objector has demonstrated a prima facie case and whether the party challenged has provided race-neutral reasons, but the implicit findings are adequate. See id. at 563-64. With respect to the first step, a prima facie showing of discriminatory intent may be demonstrated by the prosecutor's total exclusion of all people of color from the venire. See State v. Everett, 472 N.W.2d 864, 868 (Minn. 1991). With respect to the second step, a family member's involvement in the criminal justice system is a valid race-neutral reason for a peremptory strike. See State v. Scott, 493 N.W.2d 546, 549 (Minn. 1992). And a juror's acquaintance with or personal knowledge of a defendant is also a valid race-neutral reason for a peremptory challenge. See James, 520 N.W.2d at 404.

The district court apparently declined to give Hager's attorney an opportunity to do additional research into the voir dire record to see if it supported the prosecutor's reasons. Declining to reserve the ruling until a later time was discretionary with the court, and the ruling was not an abuse of discretion in light of the fact that both attorneys were present during voir dire. Hager did not claim pretext or point to facts that would suggest pretext. See State v. Spears, 560 N.W.2d 723, 725 (Minn. App. 1997) (challenging party carries ultimate burden of showing purposeful discrimination) (citing Purkett, 514 U.S. at 768, 115 S. Ct. at 1771), review denied (Minn. May 28, 1997); Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.02, subd. 6a(3)(b), (c). The district court's ruling is grounded on the record, and its findings are not clearly erroneous.

In a pro se supplemental brief, Hager raises several additional issues. First, he argues that the district court judge was impermissibly biased because Hager had previously appeared before the judge in juvenile court. Second, he asserts that one of the impaneled jurors was impermissibly biased. Hager's remaining claims of error are insufficiently stated to raise a legal issue and are not factually supported by the record.

An appellate court "will not decide issues raised for the first time on appeal." State v. Kremer, 307 Minn. 309, 312-13, 239 N.W.2d 476, 478 (1976), cited in State v. Spaeth, 552 N.W.2d 187, 196-97 (Minn. 1996) (applying the principle to a pro se appellant's challenge to a trial court's decision to admit statements made by appellant into evidence). Neither Hager nor his attorney raised the issue of the judge's or the juror's bias at trial. Furthermore, Hager has not provided a factual basis for either assertion, nor did he request removal of the judge prior to trial. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 13(4) (providing method for defendant to remove judge); State v. Moss, 269 N.W.2d 732, 734-35 (Minn. 1978) (failure to request removal of judge before trial acts as waiver for objection to possible conflict known before trial).