State v. Robinson

Decision Date04 June 1996
Docket NumberNo. 15313,15313
Citation237 Conn. 238,676 A.2d 384
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Shawn ROBINSON.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Deborah DeHart Cannavino, Stamford, with whom were William H. Narwold, Hartford, and, on the brief, Temmy Ann Pieszak, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Marjorie Allen Dauster, Assistant State's Attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Michael Dearington, State's Attorney, and David J. Strollo, Assistant State's Attorney, for appellee (state).


PETERS, Chief Justice.

Federal and state constitutional law prohibit peremptory challenges of jurors if such challenges are racially motivated. The principal issue in this certified appeal is the identification of the point in time during the jury selection process at which a litigant must voice an objection to a peremptory challenge that allegedly was based on race. After a jury trial, the defendant, Shawn Robinson was convicted of two counts of assault in the second degree in violation of General Statutes (Rev. to 1987) § 53a-60. 1 The trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury verdict, and the defendant appealed to the Appellate Court. The Appellate Court provisionally reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether the defendant had raised a timely objection to the state's peremptory challenge of a venireperson. State v. Robinson, 38 Conn.App. 598, 662 A.2d 1295 (1995). We granted the defendant's petition for certification to appeal. 2 We reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court and remand the case to that court with direction to remand to the trial court for a new trial.

The defendant has not challenged, either in the Appellate Court or in this court, the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his convictions for assault in the second degree. The jury reasonably could have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that, while the defendant was an inmate at the Manson Youth Correctional Facility in Cheshire, he struck and intentionally caused physical injury to two correctional officers who were engaged in the performance of their duties.

The only issue before us is the defendant's claim that, in selecting the six person jury that convicted him of these assaults, the state improperly used its peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner. The opinion of the Appellate Court describes the relevant facts. "Of the first thirty-eight venirepersons called for jury selection, 3 three were black. One of those three was excused by the court for hardship, and the other two, Lisa Spruill and Melvin Perry, were excused by the state through the use of peremptory challenges.

"Spruill was the second person voir dired and Perry the thirty-eighth person voir dired. The defendant did not object on the basis of Batson v. Kentucky, [476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986) ], immediately after the state used a peremptory challenge to excuse Spruill, but the defendant did object on that basis as to Spruill and Perry immediately after the state excused Perry, and moved that the entire venire panel be dismissed. When the defendant made his Batson claim, he asked the state to put on the record its reasons for excusing both Perry and Spruill.

"The state asserted that it [had] excused Perry for two reasons. First, the state felt that a comment made by Perry, 'it takes two to fight,' indicated that Perry would be lenient about fights and that Perry thought that no one was solely at fault for a fight. Second, the state was concerned with the fact that Perry had a fourth grade education, whereas the other jurors that had been selected had at least high school educations. The state was asked by the court if it wanted to put anything on the record as to Spruill, and the state declined, stating that the defendant had not made a Batson claim as to her immediately following her voir dire. The court did not require the state to put on the record its reasons for excusing Spruill.

"When the defendant requested a ruling on his motion to dismiss the venire panel because of the exclusion of both Perry and Spruill, the court stated that it was premature to rule because not enough had developed for it to be able to find any prejudice. The defendant continued to argue his claim on statistical grounds, raising the fact that the state had struck 'a hundred percent of the people in the cognizable [racial] group,' and that the state had, therefore, excused a disproportionate number of black venirepersons.

"The court found that the state's reasons for the challenge of Perry were not pretexts and inferentially that the defendant had not satisfied his burden of proof that the striking of Perry was racially motivated. 4 The court made no ruling as to Spruill because the defendant had not objected when she was excused. In short, no Batson hearing was held as to Spruill.

"The court never specifically ruled on the defendant's motion to dismiss the entire venire panel but implicitly denied it because it found the peremptory challenge as to Perry [had not been] racially motivated and that no Batson hearing was needed as to the peremptory challenge of Spruill because the defendant's claim as to her was untimely. After the trial ... had concluded, the defendant filed a motion for a new trial based on his Batson claims. The court denied that motion." State v. Robinson, supra, 38 Conn.App. at 605-606, 662 A.2d 1295.

On the issue of law concerning the proper timing for a Batson challenge, the Appellate Court concluded that, in order to avoid a finding of waiver, a defendant must object to the state's use of a peremptory challenge on equal protection grounds "at that point in the voir dire proceedings when the possibility of purposeful discrimination became or should have become apparent." Id., at 615, 662 A.2d 1295. In light of this conclusion, the Appellate Court remanded this case to the trial court for a hearing to determine whether the defendant had objected in a timely manner. Id., at 615-16, 621, 662 A.2d 1295.

For future cases, the Appellate Court exercised its supervisory powers to establish a rule requiring contemporaneous notice. As articulated by the Appellate Court, the proposed contemporaneous notice procedure would require a defendant, whenever the state exercised a peremptory challenge, to alert the trial court and the state that, at some later time, the defendant might raise a Batson claim with reference to the propriety of that peremptory challenge. The defendant would then be required to raise a plenary claim that a peremptory challenge had not been racially neutral, as soon as he or she had become aware, or should have become aware, of the relevant facts as they became manifest during the questioning of other potential jurors. If the defendant either did not notify the court and the state immediately of a possible future Batson challenge or did not pursue the Batson claim further as soon as he or she had grounds reasonably to have done so, the Batson challenge would have been deemed waived. In the absence of a waiver, the trial court would hold a hearing to determine the validity of the Batson claim once it had matured. Id., at 617, 662 A.2d 1295.

The defendant appeals the Appellate Court's disposition of his Batson claim. He argues that any requirement that a Batson claim must be raised at the moment a defendant becomes aware or should become aware of a possible equal protection violation impairs his equal protection rights under the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. 5 Furthermore, he contends that the contemporaneous notice rule adopted prospectively by the Appellate Court would similarly fail to protect a defendant's equal protection rights. The state urges us to uphold the rulings of the Appellate Court as constitutionally adequate and protective of judicial resources. We agree with the defendant. Rather than adopt the contemporaneous notice rule, we conclude that a party has timely raised an equal protection objection to the use of a peremptory challenge if that claim is brought to the attention of the trial court before the jury has been sworn.

"In Batson v. Kentucky, [supra, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712] the United States Supreme Court recognized that a claim of purposeful racial discrimination on the part of the prosecution in selecting a jury raises constitutional questions of the utmost seriousness, not only for the integrity of a particular trial but also for the perceived fairness of the judicial system as a whole.... The court concluded that [a]lthough a prosecutor ordinarily is entitled to exercise permitted peremptory challenges for any reason at all, as long as that reason is related to his view concerning the outcome of the case to be tried ... the Equal Protection Clause forbids the prosecutor to challenge potential jurors on account of their race...." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Hinton, 227 Conn. 301, 323, 630 A.2d 593 (1993); State v. Smith, 222 Conn. 1, 10-11, 608 A.2d 63, cert. denied, 506 U.S. 942, 113 S.Ct. 383, 121 L.Ed.2d 293 (1992); State v. Gonzalez, 206 Conn. 391, 394, 538 A.2d 210 (1988). Since Batson, the court has "reaffirmed repeatedly [its] commitment to jury selection procedures that are fair and nondiscriminatory." J.E.B. v. Alabama, 511 U.S. 127, ----, 114 S.Ct. 1419, 1421, 128 L.Ed.2d 89 (1994) (extending holding in Batson to gender based peremptory challenges); see Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 49-50, 112 S.Ct. 2348, 2353-54, 120 L.Ed.2d 33 (1992) (extending holding in Batson so that prosecutor may object to defendant's use of peremptory challenges); Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614, 628, 111 S.Ct. 2077, 2087, 114 L.Ed.2d 660 (1991) (extending holding in Batson to civil cases); Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 416, 111 S.Ct. 1364, 1373-74, 113 L.Ed.2d...

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27 cases
  • State v. King
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 27, 1999
    ...Protection Clause15 forbids the prosecutor to challenge potential jurors solely on account of their race16 .... State v. Robinson, [237 Conn. 238, 243-44, 676 A.2d 384 (1996)]. Relying on the rationale underlying Batson, the United States Supreme Court has held that gender-based challenges ......
  • State Of Conn. v. Myers
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
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    ...line rule that a Batson challenge is timely if the defendant raises it at any time before the jury is sworn. State v.Robinson, 237 Conn. 238, 245-50, 676 A.2d 384 (1996). The court noted in Robinson that to make a claim of disparate treatment, the defense would need to compare the prosecuto......
  • State v. Hodge
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    • April 6, 1999
    ...serve on the jury. Conn. Const., art. I, § 19;13 General Statutes § 54-82f;14 Practice Book § 848 [now § 42-12]."15State v. Robinson, 237 Conn. 238, 247, 676 A.2d 384 (1996). Because the purpose of voir dire is to discover "if there is any likelihood that some prejudice is in the juror's mi......
  • State v. Rigual
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • May 8, 2001 be applied. When the trial court improperly fails to hold a Batson hearing, there are two remedial alternatives. State v. Robinson, 237 Conn. 238, 253, 676 A.2d 384 (1996). "We could direct a limited remand, ordering the trial court to conduct a hearing now to determine whether the state......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Connecticut Appeliate Review
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 71, 1996
    • Invalid date
    ...discrimination against gays and lesbians); dissenting alone on the remedy, but concurring on the legal principle, in State v. Robinson, 237 Conn. 238, 255, 676 A.2d 384, 392 (1996) (holding that a voir dire challenge is timely if made before the jury is sworn); and dissenting with Norcott i......
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    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 84, 2010
    • Invalid date
    ...died in committee. See Conn. Joint Standing Committee Hearings, Judiciary, Pt. 1, 1985 Sess., pp. 169-234. 28. See State v. Robinson, 237 Conn. 238, 247 n.9, 676 A.2d 384 (1996); State v. Thornton, 112 Conn. App. 694, 695, 963 A.2d 1099, cert. denied, 291 Conn. 914, 970 A.2d 727 (2009). Con......

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