State Of Mo. v. Bateman

Decision Date03 August 2010
Docket NumberNo. SC 90528.,SC 90528.
Citation318 S.W.3d 681
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent,v.Tyrone C. BATEMAN, Appellant.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court


Jessica M. Hathaway, Public Defender's Office, St. Louis, for Appellant.

Richard A. Starnes, Attorney General's Office, Jefferson City, for Respondent.


Tyrone Bateman was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of his cousin Miles Bateman and sentenced to life in prison without parole. On appeal, Tyrone 1 argues that the evidence was insufficient to allow the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that he deliberated before shooting the victim and that the trial court erred in overruling his challenge to the state's peremptory strike of an African-American venireperson under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986).

Finding no error, this Court affirms. Tyrone left the victim's home after the two engaged in a physical altercation. He drove to his own house to retrieve his shotgun, drove back to the victim's house, kicked down the door, shot and killed the victim, and then drove from the scene while exclaiming, “I got him. I got him.” This evidence, if believed, was sufficient to permit a reasonable juror to find the element of deliberation beyond a reasonable doubt.

This Court also finds no reversible error in the trial court's rejection of Tyrone's claim that the state's strike of an African-American venireperson, B.T., violated Batson. In support, Tyrone argues the state's explanation that it struck B.T. because he showed initiative and leniency in sua sponte asking about the degrees of murder was pretextual in that the state failed to exercise a peremptory challenge as to a Caucasian venireperson who also asked a question about punishment and because the questions were asked only after the prosecutor solicited questions from the venire. The state argues that there was no similarly situated Caucasian juror, and, therefore, the strike was not pretextual.

The focus of some prior cases on the “crucial” nature of the presence of a similarly situated juror should be understood to mean that this evidence often is determinative of the presence of pretext; the presence of such a juror is not necessary to find pretext, however. Pretext is determined in light of the entirety of the circumstances, not by the presence of a single factor. See, e.g., State v. Parker, 836 S.W.2d 930 (Mo. banc 1992).

As discussed below, factors that have been identified as relevant, in addition to the presence of a similarly situated Caucasian juror, include, but are not limited to, the striking of a disproportionate number of minorities, the number of minorities left on the jury, the use of strikes against non-minority jurors, the logical relevance of the prosecutor's proffered explanation, objective factors bearing on the state's motive to discriminate, and the prosecutor's pattern of practice such as his or her demeanor and history of making or not making pretextual strikes.

Tokenism in leaving some minorities on the jury or in striking some non-minorities will not prevent a strike from being found to be pretextual where other factors support a finding of pretext, and the determination of pretext must be made based on the prosecutor's statement at the time of the Batson challenge; new reasons why a strike could have been made may not be offered on appeal.

Here, however, the challenge was made solely on the bases that there was a similarly situated Caucasian juror who was not stricken and that the prosecutor mischaracterized the nature of a question asked by the stricken juror. The record shows that the Caucasian venireperson was not similarly situated and that his answers supported the prosecutor's statement that he believed B.B. would be more favorable to the prosecution than would the B.T. The other minor misstatements by the prosecutor were not significant or dispositive, and the trial court did not clearly err in finding that the strike of B.T. was race-neutral.

A. Underlying Criminal Action

The evidence shows that Tyrone and Miles Bateman were cousins living on the same street. After a night out together, Miles slept at Tyrone's house. When Miles awoke the next morning, he discovered Tyrone had borrowed his van and some amount of money. Tyrone later returned the van without gas. The money was not returned. Tyrone left a pair of shoes or boots in the van, which Miles kept until he could collect the missing money from Tyrone.

A few days later, on March 21, 2005, Miles was repairing a flat tire in front of his mother's house, where he lived, when Tyrone drove up with a mutual friend to retrieve the shoes. When Miles refused to give back the shoes until Tyrone returned his money, an argument ensued and escalated into a physical confrontation. Tyrone struck or grabbed Miles, who then retaliated by hitting Tyrone in the head with the jack handle he was holding. Tyrone's head began to bleed profusely, and the two wrestled on the ground until the fight was broken up by Miles' mother. Tyrone told Miles, “... [W]hen you get off me, I'm going to hurt you real bad.” Miles went into his house and then the bathroom to wash his face.

Tyrone returned to his car and drove in reverse down a one-way street. Upon reaching his house, Tyrone retrieved a shotgun. Tyrone then returned to Miles' house, kicked down the front door and shot Miles once in the area of his left chest. Tyrone did not try to help Miles or seek medical attention for him after the shooting. Instead, he got back into his car and drove away, exclaiming, “I got him. I got him.”

During a subsequent search of Tyrone's house, police recovered a shotgun and shell consistent with the gun used to shoot Miles. Miles died as a result of the injuries inflicted by the gunshot. Police later apprehended Tyrone at an apartment where he was partially hidden in the closet of a child's bedroom. Tyrone resisted arrest so aggressively that police subdued him with a Taser.

The state charged Tyrone with first-degree murder. At trial, Tyrone admitted he shot Miles but argued he was guilty only of voluntary manslaughter.

B. Jury Selection

At the start of the second day of voir dire, the prosecutor asked whether any of the venirepersons, after having the night to think about the previous day's questions, had a “response” or a “rethought:”

[H]as anyone else had a chance to sleep on anything about what we talked about and have a response to anything we may have talked about yesterday or you rethought as of last night or today.

B.B., a Caucasian venireperson, replied:

Yesterday we were talking. And I'm not talking about presumption of innocence here or anything like that. But the State is not asking for the death penalty or it's been ruled out completely. And I'm trying, in my mind, to justify why if we determine that there was guilt in this case that we wouldn't be allowed to consider all possible punishment. Not that we would necessarily go for that, but why would we eliminate some of the punishment possibilities from the deliberation?

The prosecutor generally explained why the prosecutor might seek the death penalty in only certain types of murder cases and that the jury would not be involved in sentencing.

Later in voir dire, the prosecutor asked whether the venire members could follow the “instructions as to one of the elements in the case even if “it may differ from what you thought was the law or what you think the law ought to be....” The prosecutor continued, “I want to know can you follow the Court's instructions even if it differs from your own?” After five venirepersons answered in the affirmative, the prosecutor asked B.T., an African-American venireperson:

[Prosecutor]: Juror 217, can you follow the Court's instruction even if it differs from your own personal thoughts or beliefs on the issue?
[B.T.]: Juror 217. I believe I can. But one question, when you say degree, what do you mean by that, First Degree, Second Degree?
[Prosecutor]: That will be entailed in the instruction that the Court gives you that there are elements that go into making a homicide a Murder in the First Degree. There are certain requirements certain things that need to be sustained before it's Murder in the First Degree or to make it Murder in the First Degree.
[B.T.]: I mean, is that like more of a harsher sentence?
[Prosecutor]: Murder in the First Degree is a higher charge, per se, than Murder in the Second Degree or even manslaughter. There's a kind of ranging of them. Murder in the First Degree in some instances carries the death penalty. It does not in this case. Any of those questions that you have as far as degrees go, the Court will give you an instruction on.
Let me ask you this: If your personal belief is one thing but the Court's instructions is another, will you be able to follow the Court's instruction and apply it to the facts of the case?
[B.T.]: Yes.
[Prosecutor]: You'd be able to set aside even if you disagree with it?
[B.T.]: (Juror nods head.)
The Court: Is that a yes?
[B.T.]: Yes. I'm sorry.

The prosecutor did not initially include B.T. in his peremptory strikes, but when a Batson challenge was upheld as to one of the prosecutor's original strikes, he struck B.T. After the defense made a Batson challenge, the prosecutor explained:

You honor, I struck [B.T.] for the sole reason that each-before I asked a question about following the Court's instructions and [alluding] as to different degrees of murder or homicide shortly after reading the charge, it was a Murder in the First Degree case, [B.T.] beat me to that question and asked if there are different degrees of murder charges and are there other things than First Degree to consider. And the reason I strike him ... is because I take that initiative that he showed as, you know, maybe a sign that he has a more lenient bend on his personal disposition in this matter or in criminal matters.


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