Monday, April 07, 2014

Court rejects Batson challenge; "childless and young" was a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason to excuse juror

U.S. v. Ganadegro, 2014 WL 1045026 (3/19/14) (N.M.) unpub'd) - In rejecting a Batson claim, the disctric court said the following: "I think the prosecutor has stated a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason [the juror was childless and young in a child abuse resulting in death case] for exercising her peremptory challenge [against a Native-American]. . . So, I'm not sure I can deny the challenge just because she's trying to maneuver or come up with a better racial composition. . . . So I'll overrule the challenge." The 10th ruled the judge did not mean the prosecutor was "trying to maneuver or come up with a better racial composition," when he said that. Rather the statement was ambiguous and read in context only meant that he couldn't grant relief just because Mr. Ganadonegro asserted the prosecutor was striking a juror for racial reasons. Understood this way, the 10th says, the judge was really just making a credibility determination. Once the 10th says it's a credibility judgment, they can't reverse it. And, besides, the 10th says, to interpret what the judge said the way Mr. Ganadonegro does would mean the judge didn't understand Batson. And that couldn't be true. On the helpful side the 10th indicates the defense can make a prima facie Batson case by inference, such as perhaps here where the juror had lots of Navajo connections, even though he didn't acknowledge he was Native American when the group was asked. The 10th also thought the government's opposition to excusing for cause another non-Native-American juror who was childless and young was not persuasive evidence of bias because that juror leaned towards becoming a police officer. So the government had a strategic interest in keeping that juror. Plus the juror indicated he could serve despite his school obligations.

It was not improper to question Mr. Ganadonegro repeatedly about not using an interpreter much at a prior trial, but using the interpreter a lot at this trial, because the defense relied heavily on Mr. Ganadonegro's lack of English proficiency. It was not "relentless" and "badgering," as the defense claimed, but rather just right.