State v. Williams, 21-0158

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMcDERMOTT, Justice.
Citation972 N.W.2d 720
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Antoine Tyree WILLIAMS, Appellant.
Docket Number21-0158
Decision Date01 April 2022

972 N.W.2d 720

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Antoine Tyree WILLIAMS, Appellant.

No. 21-0158

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted January 20, 2022
Filed April 1, 2022


Martha J. Lucey, State Appellate Defender, and Melinda J. Nye, Assistant Appellant Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Louis S. Sloven and Scott Brown, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.

McDermott, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which all justices joined. Appel, J., filed a special concurrence.

McDERMOTT, Justice.

A jury in Floyd County found Antoine Williams, an African-American man, guilty of second-degree murder. Williams appealed his conviction, arguing that his right to an impartial jury under the United States Constitution and the Iowa Constitution had been violated because his jury pool only contained two African-American jurors, one of whom was later

972 N.W.2d 722

excused because she was a college student. On appeal, we remanded the case to give Williams an opportunity to develop his impartial-jury arguments in response to refinements that we made to how a defendant must prove a fair-cross-section constitutional violation that we explained in his and other cases after his trial. The district court ultimately rejected Williams's further-developed claims. Williams now appeals that ruling.

I. Facts Developed on Remand.

We described the underlying facts from Williams's trial and earlier procedural history of this case in the opinion filed in Williams's initial appeal and will forego restating them here. See State v. Williams (Williams I ), 929 N.W.2d 621, 623–28 (Iowa 2019). Pertinent to this appeal are the facts that the parties developed on remand related to the only remaining issue in the case: Williams's fair-cross-section claim.

In State v. Plain (Plain II ), we defined the terms "jury pool" (the members of the community selected for jury duty and summoned and reporting to the courthouse), "jury panel" (the members of the pool directed to a particular courtroom to serve as possible jurors for a specific trial), and "jury" (the members of the panel actually selected for a specific trial), and will use the same definitions in this case. 969 N.W.2d 293, 294–95 (Iowa 2022).

At the time of Williams's trial, the jury manager in Floyd County would send members of the jury pool a paper questionnaire for the juror to provide basic information relevant to the jury selection process. That questionnaire left it optional for jurors to identify their race. If a prospective juror didn't return the questionnaire, the jury manager would send a reminder letter. If the summoned juror failed to appear at the courthouse on the date shown on the summons, the jury manager would send the juror a failure-to-appear notice. Failing to appear subjected the summoned juror to being found in contempt of court. But contempt hearings were rare in Floyd County; those who failed to appear were usually deferred to another trial date or not further contacted.

Williams's jury pool could have included up to 138 potential jurors, of which two were African-American. It was the jury manager's practice to excuse summoned jurors who, according to their questionnaire responses, were students. (Other age-related or hardship-related requests to be excused from jury service were left to the judge to resolve.) One of the African-American jurors in the group of 138 responded on the questionnaire that she was a student attending college outside Floyd County. The jury manager excused her because she was a student. This left only one African-American juror at the courthouse that day.

On remand to address his fair-cross-section challenge, Williams called several witnesses. Todd Nuccio, the state court administrator at the time of the hearing, testified about statewide changes to the jury management practices implemented in December 2018 and aimed in part to address issues raised in our decisions in Plain I , Lilly I , Veal I , and Williams I . See State v. Plain (Plain I ), 898 N.W.2d 801, 827–28 (Iowa 2017) ; State v. Lilly (Lilly I ), 930 N.W.2d 293, 305–07 (Iowa 2019) ; State v. Veal (Veal I ), 930 N.W.2d 319, 328–29 (Iowa 2019) ; Williams I , 929 N.W.2d 621 at 629–30. The changes included creating uniform jury management practices in summoning prospective jurors, addressing failures to appear or respond, establishing procedures for reminder letters and electronic notifications, implementing electronic (as opposed to paper) juror questionnaires, and publicizing the

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source list from which courts draw jury pools. Before the changes, it was optional for jurors to identify their race on the questionnaire; now it's required. Nuccio testified that he lacked sufficient data to say whether the changes had increased representation but that anecdotal information suggested it was improving.

Mark Headlee, the judicial branch's information technology director, testified about the jury management software that courts throughout the state use. He explained that the judicial branch receives voter registration, driver's license, and non-operator identification lists that are combined (with duplications removed) to form the source list from which people are randomly selected for jury pools. See Iowa Code §§ 607A.21 –.22.

Grace Zalenski, a private statistical consultant, testified about her analysis of the racial composition of Williams's jury pool and Floyd County's historical data for jury pools in the year preceding Williams's trial. She analyzed two sets of data: one that included the African-American college student who had been excused and one that didn't. Finding the sample size of Williams's own jury too small to run a statistically-valid calculation, Zalenski focused instead on the historical data and found an underrepresentation of African-Americans on Floyd County jury pools that, based on her calculations, couldn't be attributed to random chance.

The court also heard testimony from Mary Rose, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, who described her areas of expertise to include jury decision-making, jury representation, and jury participation. Rose identified several factors based on her research that were associated with the underrepresentation of African-Americans and Hispanics on juries, including laws excluding felons from serving, failing to issue reminders to summoned jurors, and failing to impose consequences for summoned jurors who don't show.

II. The Duren /Plain Elements.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to "an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." U.S. Const. amend VI. The Iowa Constitution similarly guarantees the right to a "trial by an impartial jury." Iowa Const. art. I, § 10. The constitutional guarantees of an impartial jury entitle the accused to a jury "drawn from a fair cross-section of the community." Plain I , 898 N.W.2d at 821.

A defendant establishes a prima facie violation of the fair-cross-section requirement by showing that (1) a group alleged to have been excluded is a "distinctive" group in the community, (2) the group's representation in jury pools is not "fair and reasonable" when considered against the group's percentage in the community, and (3) the group's underrepresentation "is due to systematic exclusion of the group in the jury-selection process." Id. at 822 (quoting Duren v. Missouri , 439 U.S. 357, 364, 99 S.Ct. 664, 58 L.Ed.2d 579 (1979) ). The defendant bears the burden of proof to show a prima facie violation of the fair-cross-section requirement. Plain I , 898 N.W.2d at 821–22 ; Lilly I , 930 N.W.2d at 299 ; see also Duren , 439 U.S. at 363–64, 99 S.Ct. 664.

The State concedes the first Duren / Plain prong that African-Americans constitute a distinctive group in the community. The contest involves the second and third prongs. The district court held that Williams's claim failed on either ground. We review challenges alleging the denial of constitutional rights—in this case, the...

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