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Seattle v. Erickson, No. 93408-8

On February 13, 2017 WACDL filed a joint amicus brief with the ACLU, WDA and Loren Miller Bar Association asking the court to establish a rule that a prima facies case of discrimination has been established when the prosecutor exercises a peremptory challenge against the sole remaining venire member of a defendant's racial group or the last remaining minority member of the venire.

Court

WSSC

Issue

The trial court erred when it based its ruling on whether there were embers of any constitutionally protected group on the jury, rather than on whether the excluded potential juror was peremptorily struck baed on his race. By denying discretionary review the COA sanctioned this error. On petition for review to WSSC is asking the court to fine the use of a peremptory challenge on the only member of a cognizable racial group sufficient to support a prima facie case of discrimination that requires a full Batson analysis.

WACDL Amicus

In addressing the first step of a Batson challenge, did the trial court err in requiring proof of a pattern of discrimination, in treating all non-white jurors as one class, and in failing to consider the prosecutor’s inherently race-based reason for excluding the juror?

In light of the persistent problem of excluding minorities from jury service, should this Court adopt the rule favored by five justices in State v. Rhone, 168 Wn.2d 645, 229 P.3d 752 (2010), that a defendant establishes a prima facie case of discrimination when the prosecutor exercises a peremptory challenge against the sole remaining venire member of the defendant’s racial group or the last remaining minority member of the venire.

Given that racial bias is often unconscious but Batson addresses only intentional discrimination, should this Court adopt an “objective observer” standard akin to the appearance of fairness doctrine used for judicial recusals?

Given that racial bias is often unconscious but Batson addresses only intentional discrimination, should this Court adopt an “objective observer” standard akin to the appearance of fairness doctrine used for judicial recusals?

 

Ruling

7/6/17: WSSC ruled a Batson challenge is timely when brought at the earliest reasonable time while the trial court still has the ability to remedy the wrong, even if after the venire has been dismissed. And that a peremptory challenge against the only member of a cognizable racial group is a prima facie showing of discrimination that must be recognized by the trial court. The presence of other nonwhite jurors is not relevant to the issue of whether an individual juror was struck because of his or her race.

Justices Gonzalez & Yu concur in the result but argue that difficulty in rooting out discrimination in the justice system using the Batson framework and advocate instead for the elimination of peremptory challenges.

WACDL Amicus Authors

Suzanne Elliott, Lila Silverstein

Appellate Authors

Michael Schueler, Philip Chinn

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