City of Seattle v. Erickson

Decision Date06 July 2017
Docket NumberNo. 93408-8,93408-8
Citation188 Wash.2d 721,398 P.3d 1124
Parties CITY OF SEATTLE, Respondent, v. Matthew Alex ERICKSON, Petitioner.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

OWENS, J.

¶1 In 2013, Matthew Erickson, a black man, was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest. After voir dire, the city of Seattle (City) exercised a peremptory challenge against the only black juror on the jury panel. After the jury was empaneled and excused from the courthouse with the rest of the venire, Erickson objected to the peremptory challenge, claiming the strike was racially motivated. The court found that there was no prima facie showing of racial discrimination and overruled Erickson's objection.

¶2 Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed. 2d 69 (1986), guarantees a jury selection process free from racial animus. Yet, we have noted that our Batson protections are not robust enough to effectively combat racial discrimination during jury selection. We have repeatedly signaled our desire to better effectuate the equal protection guaranties espoused in Batson. However, we had not yet found the opportunity to do so. Now, by explicitly asking this court to amend our Batson analysis and squarely briefing the issue, Erickson has provided that opportunity. As a threshold matter, we find that Erickson's Batson challenge was timely. We further adopt the bright-line rule first espoused by the dissent in State v. Rhone, 168 Wash.2d 645, 652 n.5, 229 P.3d 752 (2010) (plurality opinion). We amend our Batson framework and hold that the peremptory strike of a juror who is the only member of a cognizable racial group constitutes a prima facie showing of racial discrimination requiring a full Batson analysis by the trial court.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶3 In June 2013, Officer Kevin Oshikawa Clay observed Erickson near Westlake Park in Seattle, Washington. He testified that Erickson was walking down the sidewalk backward and with a knife drawn, followed by several other individuals. Clay and his partner followed Erickson into the Pacific Place shopping center, drew their weapons, and ordered Erickson to drop the knife. Erickson complied, but refused to follow the officers' instructions to lay facedown on the floor. After a prolonged physical struggle throughout which Erickson refused the officers' commands and resisted their physical efforts to restrain him, the officers subdued him and took him into custody. He was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest.

¶4 After voir dire, each party exercised three peremptory strikes. The City used one of those strikes against juror 5, the only black juror on the panel, and Erickson made no objections at the time.1 The six-person jury was subsequently seated, the rest of the venire excused, the jury sworn in, and the jury dismissed for the day. Erickson then objected to the striking of juror 5 pursuant to Batson, noting it was the first opportunity he had to do so without being "directly in front of the jury." 1 Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (Oct. 21, 2014) at 180.

¶5 Erickson argued that the City violated Batson when it struck juror 5. He claimed that the striking of the only juror from a cognizable racial group made a prima facie case that the juror was struck based on race. The City rebutted that Erickson had waived his right to a Batson challenge, claiming the objection was brought after the venire had been dismissed and the jury excused for the day, thereby making the objection untimely. It further argued that Erickson had not made a prima facie case of discrimination because Batson stands for the "proposition that there needed to be a pattern or practice of discrimination." 2 VRP (Oct. 22, 2014) at 200-01. It claimed the act of striking a single juror could not constitute such a pattern.

¶6 The municipal court found that Erickson had not waived the Batson challenge. However, it also found that Erickson had not presented a prima facie case for discrimination. Though juror 5 may have been the only black juror, there were a number of other jurors from "constitutionally cognizable groups" who remained on both the panel and venire after juror 5's strike. 2 VRP (Oct. 22, 2014) at 206-07. The court and the parties specifically identified five other individuals as "people of color," but did not explicitly speculate about those individuals' racial backgrounds or identities. Id. at 193-95, 205-07.

¶7 The court conceded that striking a single juror of a particular race could, under certain circumstances, rise to the level of prima facie discrimination. However, the court noted that it saw no such circumstances in this case. Because the municipal court ruled against Erickson on the first step of the Batson analysis, it terminated the analysis and allowed the trial to move forward. Erickson was convicted on both counts.

¶8 Erickson appealed the municipal court's decision to King County Superior Court. The superior court affirmed the municipal court, finding that the circumstances surrounding the challenge did not raise any inference that the juror was stricken because of his race. The judge did not address whether Erickson's motion was timely.

¶9 Erickson then petitioned the Court of Appeals for discretionary review, which it denied. His motion to modify the commissioner's ruling was similarly denied. He finally petitioned this court for discretionary review, which was granted. City of Seattle v. Erickson, 187 Wash.2d 1008, 386 P.3d 1098 (2017).

ISSUES

¶10 1. Did Erickson waive his right to a Batson challenge when he objected after the jury was empaneled and both the jury and venire excused?

¶11 2. Did the trial court err in finding that Erickson did not make a prima facie showing of racial discrimination when the City struck juror 5?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶12 On one level, this case hinges on a procedural question about the appropriate timing for a challenge to a peremptory strike under Batson. On another level, this case represents the struggle to defend our equal protection guaranties and to continue fighting against racial discrimination in the jury selection process.

¶13 Batson created a three-part test to replace the " ‘crippling burden of proof’ " previously required when attempting to prove a racially motivated strike. State v. Saintcalle, 178 Wash.2d 34, 43-44, 309 P.3d 326 (2013) (plurality opinion) (quoting Batson, 476 U.S. at 92, 106 S.Ct. 1712 ). First, the defendant must establish a prima facie case that "gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose." Batson, 476 U.S. at 94, 106 S.Ct. 1712. Second, if a prima facie case is made, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to provide an adequate, race-neutral justification for the strike. Id. Finally, if a race-neutral explanation is provided, the court must weigh all relevant circumstances and decide if the strike was motived by racial animus. Johnson v. California, 545 U.S. 162, 168, 125 S.Ct. 2410, 162 L.Ed. 2d 129 (2005) (quoting Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 767, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed. 2d 834 (1995) (per curiam)).

¶14 Though the United States Supreme Court provided this framework, it left the states to establish rules for the "particular procedures to be followed upon a defendant's timely objection to a prosecutor's challenges." Batson, 476 U.S. at 99, 106 S.Ct. 1712. These local rules can define when an objection is timely. Ford v. Georgia, 498 U.S. 411, 423, 111 S.Ct. 850, 112 L.Ed. 2d 935 (1991). A trial judge's decision under the original Batson test is entitled great deference and will be reversed only if the defendant can show it was clearly erroneous. Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 364, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed. 2d 395 (1991). However, this court has great discretion to amend or replace the Batson requirements if circumstances so require. See Saintcalle, 178 Wash.2d at 51, 309 P.3d 326.

¶15 As a threshold matter, we first must decide whether Erickson can bring a Batson challenge after the jury is empaneled and the rest of the venire excused. We then decide whether the municipal court erred when it found that Erickson had not established a prima facie case of racial discrimination in violation of equal protection. WASH. CONST . art. I, § 12. We find that Erickson's objection was timely and that the municipal court erred when it failed to infer racial bias from the dismissal of the only black juror on the jury panel.

1. Erickson Did Not Waive His Right to a Batson Challenge When He Objected to the Striking of a Juror after the Jury Was Empaneled but before Testimony Was Heard

¶16 As noted above, the United States Supreme Court has left it to state courts and legislatures to determine the procedure surrounding Batson challenges. Ford , 498 U.S. at 423, 111...

To continue reading

Request your trial
83 cases
  • State v. Holmes
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • December 24, 2019
    ...any less." State v. Saintcalle , 178 Wash. 2d 34, 49–50, 309 P.3d 326 (overruled in part on other grounds by Seattle v. Erickson , 188 Wash. 2d 721, 398 P.3d 1124 [2017] ), cert. denied, 571 U.S. 1113, 134 S. Ct. 831, 187 L. Ed. 2d 691 (2013). "From a practical standpoint, studies suggest t......
  • Jamison v. McClendon
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • August 4, 2020
    ...jury selection." State v. Saintcalle , 178 Wash. 2d 34, 35, 309 P.3d 326 (2013), abrogated on other grounds by City of Seattle v. Erickson , 188 Wash. 2d 721, 398 P.3d 1124 (2017). Like any actor in our legal system, juries may succumb to "unintentional, institutional, or unconscious" biase......
  • State v. Jose A. B.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • March 22, 2022
    ...decision to any particular provision of the Washington constitution but, instead, cites its prior decisions in Seattle v. Erickson , 188 Wash. 2d 721, 733–34, 398 P.3d 1124 (2017), and State v. Saintcalle , supra, 178 Wash. 2d at 51, 309 P.3d 326. See State v. Jefferson , supra, 192 Wash. 2......
  • State v. Brown
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • March 31, 2022
    ...the court must weigh all relevant circumstances and decide if the strike was motived by racial animus. City of Seattle v. Erickson , 188 Wash.2d 721, 726-27, 398 P.3d 1124 (2017).¶ 16 In 1992, Washington applied Batson to gender-based discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges. Stat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Sacrificing Secrecy
    • United States
    • University of Georgia School of Law Georgia Law Review (FC Access) No. 55-2, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...309 P.3d 326, 335 (Wash. 2013) ("It is now socially unacceptable to be overtly racist."), abrogated by City of Seattle v. Erickson, 398 P.3d 1124 (Wash. 2017).279. Professor Jessica West proposes that to help ferret out bias, there should be "expanded jury venires, more robust and effective......
  • Criminal Law
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 51-4, April 2022
    • Invalid date
    ...forbidden racial considerations"); State v. Saintcalle, 309 P.3d 326, 338 (Wash. 2013), abrogated in part by City of Seattle v. Erickson, 398 P.3d 1124 (2017) ("A requirement of conscious discrimination is especially disconcerting because it seemingly requires judges to accuse attorneys of ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT