State v. Chidester, 96-1086

Citation570 N.W.2d 78
Decision Date22 October 1997
Docket NumberNo. 96-1086,96-1086
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Albert Edwin CHIDESTER, Jr., Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa

Linda Del Gallo, State Appellate Defender, and John M. Priester and Dennis D. Hendrickson, Assistant State Appellate Defenders, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas S. Tauber, Assistant Attorney General, Thomas J. Ferguson, County Attorney, and Jeffrey Harris, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.


TERNUS, Justice.

Defendant, Albert E. Chidester, Jr., was convicted and sentenced for first-degree murder and attempted murder. See Iowa Code §§ 707.2, .11 (1995). He appeals, claiming error in the trial court's denial of his pretrial motion to quash the jury panel. Finding no constitutional or statutory infirmity in the jury panel selection procedures, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Chidester was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for the shooting of two Target employees in Waterloo, Iowa. He filed a pretrial motion to quash the jury panel on the basis that (1) the court attendant's exclusion of potential venire members violated his right to a jury panel composed of a cross section of the community as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 1, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution, and (2) the jury-selection procedures violated Iowa Code section 607A.6. The district court denied Chidester's motion, and jury trial commenced in Webster County after a change of venue from Black Hawk County. The jury returned a guilty verdict on both charges, and the court sentenced Chidester to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and an indeterminate fifty-year term on the attempted murder conviction.

Chidester now brings this appeal, seeking a new trial on the basis the venire was illegally drawn. He continues to rely on his rights under the Sixth Amendment and article 1, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution, as well as the statutory procedures outlined in Iowa Code section 607A.6. We review his constitutional claims de novo; the alleged statutory violation is reviewed for correction of errors at law. State v. Morgan, 559 N.W.2d 603, 609 (Iowa 1997).

II. Webster County's Jury Selection Procedures.

The court held an evidentiary hearing on Chidester's motion to quash the jury panel. The testimony and exhibits introduced at that hearing revealed the following procedures used in Webster County for the selection of the venire.

The Webster County court attendant testified she compiles the list of potential jurors. She explained that several years ago a district court judge from Webster County authorized her to "use [her] own judgment" in excusing jurors. It appears no specific guidelines for deciding who should be excused were given to her by the judge. She was told, however, to consult with a judge if she had any questions.

Under this procedure, the court attendant has decided whether a potential juror should be excused. The court attendant has routinely deferred jury service to a later quarter for individuals who have had doctor appointments, vacations, and business trips that conflicted with the term for which they were summoned. Similarly, if a farmer has been called for jury duty during planting or harvesting season, the court attendant has transferred the farmer to another quarter. The attendant has routinely released from jury duty persons who would not be paid by their employer for the time they serve on a jury. She has also excused jurors for health reasons.

If a potential juror has disagreed with the court attendant's decision, the attendant has asked the juror to speak with a judge. Otherwise, the court attendant's decisions have not been reviewed by a judicial officer. None of the twenty-six excuses accepted by the court attendant in drawing the venire for Chidester's trial were presented to a judge for review or approval.

III. Constitutional Claims.

A. General legal principles. Chidester argues the procedure used to select the jury panel violated his Sixth Amendment right "to a jury panel designed to represent a fair cross section of the community." 1 See State v. Watkins, 463 N.W.2d 411, 414 (Iowa 1990) (citing Holland v. Illinois, 493 U.S. 474, 476-77, 110 S.Ct. 803, 805-06, 107 L.Ed.2d 905, 914 (1990)). He specifically criticizes two categories of excuses granted by the court attendant: (1) the transfer of farmers to another quarter; and (2) the exemption from jury duty given to persons whose employers will not pay them while they serve as jurors.

"A defendant challenging the composition of a jury panel must first establish a prima facie violation of the sixth amendment's fair cross-section requirement." Id. To establish a prima facie violation, the defendant

must show (1) that the group alleged to be excluded is a "distinctive" group in the community; (2) that the representation of this group in venires from which juries are selected is not fair and reasonable in relation to the number of such persons in the community; and (3) that this underrepresentation is due to systematic exclusion of the group in the jury-selection process.

Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357, 364, 99 S.Ct. 664, 668, 58 L.Ed.2d 579, 586-87 (1979). Once a defendant establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the State to justify the disproportionate representation by demonstrating that attainment of a fair cross section is incompatible with a significant state interest. Id. at 368, 99 S.Ct. at 670-71, 58 L.Ed.2d at 589-90.

The United States Supreme Court has not defined the term "distinctive group." Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162, 174, 106 S.Ct. 1758, 1765, 90 L.Ed.2d 137, 148 (1986). Rather, the Court considers the distinctiveness of a particular group in reference to the three purposes of the fair-cross-section requirement: (1) ensuring the composition of juries is not arbitrarily skewed so as to deprive a defendant of the "commonsense judgment of the community"; (2) maintaining the public's confidence in the fairness of our jury system; and (3) giving effect to our conviction that "sharing in the administration of justice is a phase of civic responsibility." Id. at 174-75, 106 S.Ct. at 1765-66, 90 L.Ed.2d at 148-49 (quoting Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522, 534, 95 S.Ct. 692, 700, 42 L.Ed.2d 690, 700 (1975). The Court observed in Lockhart that in cases where a Sixth Amendment violation has occurred, the groups in question--blacks, women and Mexican-Americans--were excluded "on the basis of some immutable characteristic such as race, gender, or ethnic background," rather than on the basis of their inability to serve as jurors. Id. at 175, 106 S.Ct. at 1766, 90 L.Ed.2d at 149. Consequently, in these instances, there was "the possibility that the composition of juries would be arbitrarily skewed in such a way as to deny criminal defendants the benefit of the common-sense judgment of the community"; their exclusion gave rise to an "appearance of unfairness"; and citizens in these groups were forever denied their right to serve on juries in criminal cases. Id.

We turn now to the specific challenges to the jury's composition made by Chidester.

B. Exclusion of persons whose employers will not compensate them during jury service. We conclude these potential jurors do not qualify as a distinctive group for purposes of the Sixth Amendment. First, these individuals were not excluded due to an "immutable characteristic." The next time these persons are called for jury duty, they may have a different job and be able to serve. These potential jurors were excluded for economic reasons that arguably affect their ability to serve. We have found no constitutional violation under similar circumstances.

In State v. Hobson, 284 N.W.2d 239 (Iowa 1979), we considered a defendant's challenge to a venire from which six persons were excused because of "employment hardship." 284 N.W.2d at 241. Although we stated "persons should not be excused from their public responsibility of jury service for mere inconvenience, distaste for service, or even the threat of some loss of income," we concluded the defendant had failed to show the systematic exclusion of an identifiable group. Id. at 241-42.

We also think the underlying purposes of the fair-cross-section requirement are not undermined by the exclusion of these individuals. The record shows the persons excused because their employers would not compensate them while they served as jurors are a diverse group. 2 We cannot conclude that these individuals had similar ideas, attitudes, or experiences such that a defendant would be denied the benefit of this group's peculiar common sense if they were excluded from the venire. See Anaya v. Hansen, 781 F.2d 1, 5 (1st Cir.1986) (finding "blue collar workers" were not a distinctive group because there was a "lack of coherence" within this group); State v. Boyd, 867 S.W.2d 330, 335 (Tenn.Crim.App.1992) (rejecting Sixth Amendment challenge to selection system that excluded nonvoters because this group did not "have a cohesiveness of attitudes, ideas, or experiences which may not be represented by others in the community"); State v. Young, 853 P.2d 327, 339 (Utah 1993) (rejecting assertion that geographic distribution or socio-economic status is a distinctive classification because these people did not have "the common values, culture, and history such as to create a distinctive group within our society"). We also think the exclusion of this diverse group of people does not give rise to an appearance of unfairness. Finally, as we noted above, these individuals are not necessarily forever precluded from jury duty.

C. Farmers. The question whether farmers are a distinctive group is not as easily answered. Some courts have upheld the exemption from jury duty of occupational groups on the basis such groups have not been shown to share unique...

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