United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
matter comes before the court on defendants'
Batson challenge, ECF No. 768, in which defendants
argue that the government used its peremptory challenges at
trial in a discriminatory matter in violation of Batson
v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Specifically,
defendants claim that the government used a purposely
discriminatory peremptory challenge against N.F., a black
male, because of his race.
Batson, the Supreme Court held that the use of
peremptory challenges to strike jurors on the basis of their
race violates the Fourteenuh Amendment. Id. at 89;
see United States v. Martinez-Salazar, 528 U.S. 304,
315 (2000) (The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment prohibits any party from "exercis[ing] a
peremptory challenge to remove a potential juror solely on
the basis of me juror's gender, ethnic origin, or
race."). The Batson limitations "are
imposed on federal prosecutors by the fifth amendment."
United States v. Lane, 866 F.2d 103, 104 n.l (4th
and its progeny have developed a three-step framework for
evaluating claims of impermissible discrimination in the jury
(1) the defendant must make out a prima facie case that the
peremptory challenge was based on purposeful discrimination,
(2) the burden shifts to the government to produce a race
neutral explanation for the peremptory challenge that is
particular to the parties' case at hand, and (3) the
trial court then has the duty of deciding whether the
defendant has carried his burden and proved purposeful
United States v. Barnette, 211 F.3d 803, 812
(Barnette I) (4th Cir. 2000) (citing Purkett v.
Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 767-68 (1995)).
defendant establishes a prima facie violation of a racial
discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges when he
(1) "he is a member of a cognizable racial group";
(2) "that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory
challenges to remove from the venire members of the
defendant's race"; and (3) "that these facts
and any other relevant circumstances raise an inference that
the prosecutor used that practice to exclude the veniremen
from the petit jury on account of their race."
Matthews v. Evatt, 105 F.3d 907, 917 n.7 (quoting
Batson, 476 U.S. at 96), abrogated on other
grounds by Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231 (2005). If
the prosecution has offered race-neutral reasons for the
peremptory challenge and the court has ruled on the ultimate
question of intentional discrimination, "the preliminary
issue of whether the defendant has made a prima facie showing
is moot." Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352,
burden then shifts to the prosecution to provide race-neutral
reasons for its peremptory challenge. The prosecution's
"explanation need not be 'persuasive, or even
plausible, ' as long as it is neutral."'
United States v. Grimmond, 187 F.3d 823, 834 (4th
Cir. 1998) (quoting Matthews. 105 F.3d at 917);
see also Johnson v. California, 545 U.S. 162, (2005)
(finding that the analysis moves to the third step "even
if the State produces only a frivolous or utterly nonsensical
justification for its strike").
Fourth Circuit has articulated myriad race-neutral reasons
that satisfy Batson's second prong. See, e.g..
United States v. Dinkins, 691 F.3d 358, 380 (4th
Cir. 2012) (juror's husband had been charged with
assault, had two friends who had been murdered, had family
who used drugs during her "whole childhood, " and
had four children between ages five and ten); United
States v. Barnette, 644 F.3d 192, 215 (Barnette
II) (4th Cir. 2011) (finding that "hesitation] when
asked whether she could put the government on an equal
playing field with the defendant" was race neutral);
United States v. Farrior, 535 F.3d 210, 221 (4th
Cir. 2008) (juror was bail bondsman and might be sympathetic
to defendants); United States v. Singh, 518 F.3d
236, 255 (4th Cir. 2008) (juror was "too 'anxious to
serve on the panel'"); United States v.
McMillon, 14 F.3d 948, 951 (4th Cir. 1994) (juror was
the same age as defendant and had children like defendants).
particular import, in Felkner v. Jackson, the
prosecution struck a black juror who "stated that from
the ages of 16 to 30 years old, he was frequently stopped by
the California police officers because-in his view-of his
race and age." 562 U.S. 594, 595 (2011) (per curiam).
The California trial court denied a Bats on
challenge, which the California Court of Appeals affirmed
after "carefully review[ing] the record."
Id. at 598. The Supreme Court determined that the
California Court of Appeals' decision "was plainly
not unreasonable." Id. (emphasis
added) (reversing Ninth Circuit's grant of
instructive, in United States v. Campbell, the
prosecution exercised a peremptory challenge on the sole
black venire member "because she was among a group of
potential jurors whom the government intended to strike
because they were victims of crime and might have, therefore,
been dissatisfied with the police." 980 F.2d 245, 249
(4th Cir. 1992). The defendant presented evidence that the
venire member "was a well-known and vocal critic of the
Roanoke City Police Department and that the government
attorneys were aware of this." Id. The Fourth
Circuit rejected this argument, finding that the
prosecution's rationale "qualifies as . . . facially
neutral." Id.; accord United States v.
Jett, 18 F.App'x 224, 234 (4th Cir. 2001)