State v. Cochran, No. 4116.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtKittredge
Citation631 S.E.2d 294
Decision Date30 May 2006
Docket NumberNo. 4116.
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Willie COCHRAN and Reggie James, Appellants.
631 S.E.2d 294
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Willie COCHRAN and Reggie James, Appellants.
No. 4116.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard May 8, 2006.
Decided May 30, 2006.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Tara Dawn Shurling, of Columbia, for Appellants.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Assistant Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Randolph Murdaugh, III, of Hampton, for Respondent.

KITTREDGE, J.


Willie Cochran and Reggie James were convicted by a jury of first-degree burglary and sentenced. Reggie James was also convicted and sentenced for assault and battery

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of a high and aggravated nature.1 They appeal from the trial court's granting of the State's Batson motion and quashing the first jury selected. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). We reverse because the trial court failed to adhere to the mandated process for the handling of a Batson motion, and the jury that convicted Appellants was comprised of jurors whom the trial court erroneously prohibited Appellants from striking.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In the typical appeal from the granting or denial of a Batson motion, the appellate courts give deference to the findings of the trial court and apply a clearly erroneous standard. State v. Shuler, 344 S.C. 604, 615, 545 S.E.2d 805, 810 (2001). This standard of review, however, is premised on the trial court following the mandated procedure for a Batson hearing. Here, where the assignment of error is the failure to follow the Batson hearing procedure, we must answer a question of law. When a question of law is presented, our standard of review is plenary. See S.C. Const. art. V, 5 and 9; S.C.Code Ann. 14-3-320 and -330 (Supp.2005); S.C.Code Ann. 14-8-200 (Supp. 2005) (Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have jurisdiction to correct errors of law).

DISCUSSION
I.

We begin our discussion mindful of the difficult task our trial judges encounter in evaluating the propriety of the wide-ranging reasons given for the exercise of peremptory challenges. At the appellate level, we view issues like a Batson challenge through the lens of hindsight, and from that perspective, we must remain sensitive to the vagaries and burdens facing trial judges. Accordingly, we are not easily persuaded to second-guess a trial court's discretionary calls. By design, the clearly erroneous standard of review (applicable in the typical Batson appellate setting) follows suit by placing constraints on the appellate court. The reversal here comes not from second-guessing, but as a result of a legal error in not adhering to the mandated Batson procedure, specifically the failure to require the opponent of the strike to prove purposeful discrimination. Even so, we recognize the experienced and able trial judge was presented with a problematic Batson motion. We now proceed to the case at hand.

II.

During jury selection, Appellants, who are black, exercised ten of their twenty peremptory challenges, striking two black women, three white men, and five white women.2 The State opposed Appellants' strikes and requested a Batson hearing.

In Batson, the Supreme Court held the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the prosecution from striking potential jurors on the basis of race. 476 U.S. at 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712. In Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 59, 112 S.Ct. 2348, 120 L.Ed.2d 33 (1992), the Supreme Court expanded Batson, holding "the Constitution prohibits a criminal defendant from engaging in purposeful discrimination on the ground of race in the exercise of peremptory challenges." Thus, during jury selection, either the defendant or the State may oppose the peremptory challenge of a juror who is a member of a cognizable racial group.3 Once a peremptory challenge is opposed, the trial court must, upon request, conduct a Batson hearing and adhere to the procedures set forth in Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 767,

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115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995), and adopted by our supreme court in State v. Adams, 322 S.C. 114, 124, 470 S.E.2d 366, 372 (1996).

In Purkett, the Supreme Court announced:

Under our Batson jurisprudence, once the opponent of a peremptory challenge has made out a prima facie case of racial discrimination (step one), the burden of production shifts to the proponent of the strike to come forward with a race-neutral explanation (step two). If a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must then decide (step three) whether the opponent of the strike has proved purposeful racial discrimination.

514 U.S. at 767, 115 S.Ct. 1769. The Supreme Court observed "[t]he second step of this process does not demand an explanation that is persuasive, or even plausible." Id. at 767-68, 115 S.Ct. 1769. At step two, therefore, the proponent of the strike does not carry "any burden of presenting reasonably specific, legitimate explanations for the strikes." Adams, 322 S.C. at 123, 470 S.E.2d at 371. Therefore, "[u]nless a discriminatory intent is inherent" in the explanation provided by the proponent of the strike, "the reason offered will be deemed race neutral" and the trial court must proceed to the third step of the Batson process. Purkett, 514 U.S. at 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769; see e.g., Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 56, 495 S.E.2d 205, 208 (1998) (striking a juror because she was a "redneck" evinces a discriminatory intent and is therefore not facially race-neutral).

At step three, the opponent of the strike must show the reason offered, though facially race-neutral, was actually mere pretext to engage in purposeful racial discrimination. Adams, 322 S.C. at 124, 470 S.E.2d at 372. The opponent of the strike carries "the ultimate burden of showing purposeful discrimination" and must demonstrate the pretextual nature of the stated reason for the strike. Id. This burden is generally established by showing similarly situated members of another race were seated on the jury. Id. at 123, 470 S.E.2d at 371.

As our case law illustrates, unless the discriminatory intent is inherent in a fundamentally implausible explanation, the opponent of the strike must make a bona fide showing that the proponent of the strike seated a juror who shared nearly every quality with the struck juror other than race to establish pretext. When the opponent of the strike proves the proponent of the strike practiced purposeful racial discrimination, the trial court must quash the entire jury panel and initiate another jury selection de novo. See State v. Jones, 293 S.C. 54, 58, 358 S.E.2d 701, 704 (1987), abrogated on other grounds by State v. Chapman, 317 S.C. 302, 306, 454 S.E.2d 317, 320 (1995); see also State v. Heyward, 357 S.C. 577, 580, 594 S.E.2d 168, 169 (Ct.App.2004).

III.

We now turn to the first jury selection and ensuing Batson motion. Initially, we note the first jury was diverse. It was comprised of one white woman, three black men, four white men, and four black women. Thus, the composition of the first jury does not indicate Appellants engaged in purposeful racial discrimination. See State v. Shuler, 344 S.C. 604, 621, 545 S.E.2d 805, 813 (2001) ("[T]he composition of the jury panel is a factor that may be considered when determining whether a party engaged in purposeful discrimination pursuant to a Batson challenge.").

Additionally, we disagree with the State's argument that Appellants embarked on a "pattern" of striking jurors because of their race. Appellants did not use their peremptory challenges solely on jurors from a single racial group. They selected a white male as their first juror, and first struck a black female. Further, although Appellants ultimately struck five white women, they also struck two black women, and seated one white woman and four white men. See State v. Ford, 334 S.C. 59, 66, 512 S.E.2d 500, 504 (1999) ("Although appellant exercised most of his strikes against white jurors, he did not strike every white juror. . . . [T]he fact that appellant used most of his challenges to strike white jurors is not sufficient, in itself, to establish purposeful discrimination.").

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Appellants used only ten of their twenty allotted peremptory challenges. If they intended to discriminate against white jurors, they certainly would have exercised their peremptory challenges more liberally. Instead, Appellants seated five white jurors.

Despite the diversity of the first jury and the fact that Appellants did not appear to engage in a pattern of purposeful racial discrimination, the State opposed Appellants' strikes and requested a Batson hearing. We now examine the first Batson hearing, which in our view demonstrates the trial court's failure to follow the mandated Batson procedure.

Appellants' counsel first explained that he struck Juror 87, a black woman, because she gave an indignant and outraged expression. The record reveals that the State had no interest in challenging the striking of black jurors, and the matter was not pursued.

Appellants' counsel next explained that he struck Juror 63, a white woman, because she shared the last name of a local Deputy Sheriff. Because this reason was facially race-neutral, Appellants satisfied step two, and the State was required to prove Appellants engaged in purposeful racial discrimination to satisfy step three. Purkett, 514 U.S. at 767-68, 115 S.Ct. 1769 (holding that at the second step of the Batson process the proponent of the strike does not have to present a persuasive or even a plausible reason, only a race-neutral one). The State merely countered that neither Appellants nor their counsel knew for sure whether Juror 63 was related to the Deputy Sheriff with the same last name. The trial court was persuaded by the State's argument and found pretext. This was error. The reason for striking Juror 63 was...

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32 practice notes
  • State v. Edwards, No. 4261.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 21 Junio 2007
    ...luculently that the appellate court must give deferential treatment to the trial judge on review. State v. Cochran, 369 S.C. 308, 326, 631 S.E.2d 294, 304 (Ct.App.2006) Anderson, J. concurring in result only. 649 S.E.2d 118 LAW/ANALYSIS I. Batson v. Kentucky Defendants assert the trial cour......
  • State v. Evins, No. 26329.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 14 Mayo 2007
    ...findings 645 S.E.2d 910 are given great deference and will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous." State v. Cochran, 369 S.C. 308, 631 S.E.2d 294 (Ct.App.2006) citing State v. Guess, 318 S.C. 269, 457 S.E.2d 6 As this Court held in Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 495 S.E.2d 205 (1998), t......
  • State v. Palmer, Appellate Case No. 2013–000700.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 24 Febrero 2016
    ...however, is premised on the trial court following the mandated procedure for a Batson hearing." State v. Cochran, 369 S.C. 308, 312, 631 S.E.2d 294, 297 (Ct.App.2006). "[W]here the assignment of error is the failure to follow the Batson hearing procedure, we must answer a question of law. W......
  • State v. Shands, Appellate Case No. 2015-001199
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 13 Junio 2018
    ...State v. Stewart , 413 S.C. 308, 316, 775 S.E.2d 416, 420 (Ct. App. 2015) (quoting 424 S.C. 117 State v. Cochran , 369 S.C. 308, 312–13, 631 S.E.2d 294, 297 (Ct. App. 2006) ).[T]he Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits the str......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • State v. Edwards, No. 4261.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 21 Junio 2007
    ...luculently that the appellate court must give deferential treatment to the trial judge on review. State v. Cochran, 369 S.C. 308, 326, 631 S.E.2d 294, 304 (Ct.App.2006) Anderson, J. concurring in result only. 649 S.E.2d 118 LAW/ANALYSIS I. Batson v. Kentucky Defendants assert the trial cour......
  • State v. Evins, No. 26329.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 14 Mayo 2007
    ...findings 645 S.E.2d 910 are given great deference and will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous." State v. Cochran, 369 S.C. 308, 631 S.E.2d 294 (Ct.App.2006) citing State v. Guess, 318 S.C. 269, 457 S.E.2d 6 As this Court held in Payton v. Kearse, 329 S.C. 51, 495 S.E.2d 205 (1998), t......
  • State v. Palmer, Appellate Case No. 2013–000700.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 24 Febrero 2016
    ...however, is premised on the trial court following the mandated procedure for a Batson hearing." State v. Cochran, 369 S.C. 308, 312, 631 S.E.2d 294, 297 (Ct.App.2006). "[W]here the assignment of error is the failure to follow the Batson hearing procedure, we must answer a question of law. W......
  • State v. Shands, Appellate Case No. 2015-001199
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 13 Junio 2018
    ...State v. Stewart , 413 S.C. 308, 316, 775 S.E.2d 416, 420 (Ct. App. 2015) (quoting 424 S.C. 117 State v. Cochran , 369 S.C. 308, 312–13, 631 S.E.2d 294, 297 (Ct. App. 2006) ).[T]he Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits the str......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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