Prior to weighing in on the validity of the Batson challenge being granted in the Ricky Whitfield case, I decided to take a very un-Pat Lykos like approach and actually read the transcript. I only ordered the portion of the transcript that dealt with the Batson challenge being made by Eric Davis and Jacquelyn Carpenter and the responses to the challenge to by Rifi Newaz and Mark Donnelly.
It took about one day to get the transcript, and it only cost about $25 for that particular portion. I guess that Lykos really has screwed her budget up pretty damn badly if she couldn't spend the $25 before she decided to try and ruin Mark and Rifi's careers.
So, here's a synopsis of the bench conference regarding the Batson challenge:
Ms. Carpenter objected to the striking of Juror Numbers 2, 3, 10, 13, 18, and 43 and properly made a Batson claim because those six venire members were African-American. As I've mentioned before (for the non-lawyers out there), that once the Batson claim has been made, it becomes the prosecutor's duty to explain their race-neutral reasons for striking the jurors.
Regarding Juror Number 2, Rifi Newaz cited the fact that this potential juror had a previously dismissed theft charge, and currently had charges pending on a Class C-Issuance of a Bad Check case. In addition, Rifi noted that when the entire panel had been asked their opinion of "what should the main purpose of the criminal justice system be - punishment or rehabilitation?", the juror had difficulty making a decision. Rifi made the argument to the court that the State didn't want an indecisive juror.
Regarding Juror Number 3, Rifi noted that the juror had successfully completed a deferred adjudication for the offense of theft in 2006, and that the juror's case seemed to be involving an employee theft.
Juror Number 10 was also struck for being indecisive on the issue of whether or not the focus of the criminal justice system should be punishment or rehabiliation, and again the cited race-neutral reason was based on wanting to avoid a juror that could not make a decision.
Juror Number 13 was struck for having seven Class C Issuance of a Bad Check cases, and also could not make a decision on punishment versus rehabilitation.
The prosecutors had tried to have Juror Number 18 struck for Cause regarding that juror's inability to follow the "One Witness Rule". This juror, however, did not make a firm enough stance on the issue for Judge Barr to have granted the challenge for cause, but it certainly gave prosecutors grounds to be concerned over her ability to follow it. They used a peremptory strike on her.
And finally, Juror Number 43 also stated that they could not follow the One Witness Rule. On this particular juror, the State had moved to have her struck for cause, but the request was denied. This left the prosecutors with only the option of striking her from the panel.
NOTE: If you are still reading this post at this point, congratulations. You are now officially more informed about this case than Lykos was when she called the Chronicle on her people.
Look, the bottom line is that when six out of ten peremptory challenges are used on African-American venire members, it absolutely looks bad. That is further compounded when it leaves absolutely no African-American jurors. It looks absolutely horrible, and I completely understand Judge Barr being very aware of that fact. I also sincerely doubt that Judge Barr had anticipated what Lykos would do in response to the Batson challenge.
Then again, most sane people do generally have trouble anticipating what Lykos will do next.
But the bottom line is that Rifi and Mark fulfilled their obligation and provided race-neutral reasons for every last African-American juror that they struck. Eric and Jacquelyn did their jobs by making the challenge, and I imagine that Judge Barr was being very well-intentioned by granting the challenge rather than risk that bad perception. I think she meant well.
But, what she didn't count on was Lykos and her speed-dial to the Chronicle.
I've said it before and I will say it again. When decisions start getting made based on perception rather than the actual facts, the Judicial System becomes no better than a lynch mob. Rifi and Mark felt this in full effect two weeks ago - first in the Batson ruling itself, but then more importantly, when Lykos offered up their heads to the Chronicle.
So, folks, how are we feeling about an elected-D.A. that still believes in Lynch Mob Justice?