Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Eugene Christopher Banks,
Filed August 4, 1998
File No. K6-97-1056
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Scott A. Hersey, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 West Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for respondent)
Leslie J. Rosenberg, Special Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Forsberg, Judge,** and Holtan, Judge.
Appellant Eugene Christopher Banks was charged with theft, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and careless driving under Minn. Stat. §§ 609.52, subds. 2(1) and 3(3)(a) (theft over $500); 609.52, subds. 2(17) and 3(3)(d)(v) (unauthorized use of motor vehicle with value "not more than $500"); and 169.13, subd. 2 (careless driving) (1996). After a jury found him guilty on all three counts, the trial court adjudicated appellant guilty of unauthorized use, sentenced him to 20 months, and ordered him to pay a fine and restitution.
On appeal, he argues that he was denied a fair trial because the state used its peremptory challenge to exclude the only minority person who was examined as a potential juror. He also argues that the evidence is insufficient because the state failed to prove that he knew the car was stolen or that he stole it, and because the state failed to prove the value of the car. We disagree and affirm.
In response to a prima facie Batson challenge, a prosecutor must "articulate a race-neutral explanation for striking" the minority person from the jury. State v. McRae, 494 N.W.2d 252, 254 (Minn. 1992) (quoting Hernandez v. New York, 111 S. Ct. 1859, 1866 (1991)). Once the prosecutor has offered such an explanation, the trial court must make a factual determination as to whether the prosecutor acted with discriminatory intent or purpose. McRae, 494 N.W.2d at 254. Because the trial court's decision is essentially a credibility determination, that decision is entitled to "great deference" on review. Id.; State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 107 (Minn. 1989).
In this case, the prosecutor explained on the record that he struck the potential juror because she was the only person on the panel who indicated a juvenile criminal history that included theft, and he was concerned that she might be sympathetic to appellant. Defense counsel responded by minimizing involvement in the juvenile justice system and by pointing out that the prosecutor asked no one else about juvenile crime. The prosecutor responded that he initiated his questions only after the trial court had asked the jurors if anyone had ever been involved in the criminal process and that he also questioned two other jurors who had relatives who had been involved in crimes. The trial court determined that the prosecutor had satisfactorily explained his reasons for exercising a preemptory challenge.
A reviewing court generally upholds a trial court's acceptance of a prosecutor's explanation if the record supports that explanation and there is no clear proof that the stated explanation was a pretext for racial discrimination. See, e.g., State v. Gaitan, 536 N.W.2d 11, 16 (Minn. 1995) (juror's lack of education, demeanor, and reluctance to judge other people); State v. James, 520 N.W.2d 399, 404 (Minn. 1994) (juror's status as lifelong resident of area demonstrated juror might know key witness or other people in case); State v. Stewart, 514 N.W.2d 559, 563 (Minn. 1994) (juror's answers came too quickly, were flippant and inappropriate, and her brother was a drug user who may have been involved in act similar to defendant's); State v. Scott, 493 N.W.2d 546, 549 (Minn. 1992) (juror's family had recently been involved with county sheriff's department due to juror's husband's criminal activity, and juror replied only that she "[p]robably" would be able to follow judge's instructions); State v. Everett, 472 N.W.2d 864, 868-69 (Minn. 1991) (juror's age and inexperience questioned in first-degree murder case); Moore, 438 N.W.2d at 107 (juror's prior arrest record). A prosecutor's facially proper reason for striking a juror might be rejected as pretextual, however, if the prosecutor asked the juror questions he had not asked other jurors, exaggerated his explanation for the peremptory challenge to the trial court, or acknowledged that he believed the juror might refuse to find the defendant guilty simply because the juror and the defendant were both minorities. See, e.g., McCrae, 494 N.W.2d at 257-58 (reversing trial court's determination that prosecutor did not act with discriminatory intent). Given the great deference accorded the trial court on review, we conclude that the trial court did not err in ruling that the peremptory strike was not racially discriminatory. See Moore, 438 N.W.2d at 107.
In this case, the following evidence was presented at trial: (1) the steering column of the Camaro was visibly punched, no keys were found that would work in the ignition, and appellant acknowledged that the keys found jammed into the ignition belonged to him; (2) appellant was stopped in the Camaro within hours after the owner of the Camaro had parked it at the post office lot; (3) the owner found a railroad spike under the seat of the Camaro when he picked it up at the impound lot, and one of the police officers testified that a railroad spike was capable of causing a "Chicago punch"; and (4) when questioned by the police, appellant claimed that his friend Kevin, whose last name he did not know, had given him permission to use the car, and that Kevin worked at the post office, where the actual owner of the Camaro worked. Given this evidence, the jury could reasonably find appellant guilty of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. See id. (unexplained possession of stolen property within reasonable time after theft sufficient to sustain conviction).
Appellant further argues that because there is insufficient evidence on the value of the Camaro, the charge alleging he stole property worth over $500 must be dismissed. However, the trial court adjudicated and sentenced appellant only for unauthorized use, which requires only that the value of the stolen vehicle "is not more than $500." Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 3(3)(d)(v). Moreover, even if the value of the Camaro were relevant, the arresting officer testified that the Camaro was worth over $500 and the owner of the Camaro estimated its value at $6,000. These opinions are sufficient to prove that the value was over $500. See State v. Anderson, 405 N.W.2d 527, 530 (Minn. App. 1987) (jury could properly accept owner's testimony on value of stolen property), review denied (Minn. July 22, 1987).
The conviction is affirmed.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
** Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 Although appellant is Caucasian and the stricken juror was African American, appellant had a right to object when the prosecutor exercised a peremptory challenge to remove the only minority person being examined. See State v. Scott, 493 N.W.2d 546, 548 (Minn. 1992). In any event, "[b]ecause the trial court ruled on the ultimate question of intentional discrimination, the question whether [appellant] made a prima facie showing is moot." Id.