Castellanos v. Small

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 09-09-2014
  • Case #: 12-55783
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Murguia for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Noonan
  • Full Text Opinion

A Batson motion for discriminatory use of peremptory challenges to exclude jurors must be granted if: (1) the defendant makes a prima facie showing of purposeful discrimination by showing that the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose; (2) the State’s justifications for the racial exclusion are not adequate; and, (3) the court decides based on the justifications offered that the State engaged in purposeful discrimination when it exercised the peremptory strike.

Anthony Castellanos appealed the district court’s denial of his habeas relief application. Castellanos was convicted of “murder, assault with a firearm, and street gang solicitation.” During a visit at Castellanos’s apartment, Castellanos tried to recruit his neighbor to join his gang. Castellanos pointed a gun at his neighbor and shot him in the head. During void dire, the prosecution asked a series of questions of the potential jurors, and after six peremptory strikes, “the defense counsel made the Batson motion,” contending that the prosecution was excluding Hispanic individuals. The trial court denied the motion after hearing the prosecution’s reasons for excluding the jurors. After conviction, Castellanos appealed, stating the trial court erred in denying his motion. Castellanos’s conviction was affirmed. Castellanos applied for habeas relief, which the district court denied. On review, the Ninth Circuit considered whether “the prosecutor’s discriminatory use of peremptory challenges to exclude Hispanic prospective jurors violated [Castellanos’s] federal constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment, pursuant to Batson v. Kennedy.” The Batson framework has three steps: (1) “[D]efendant must make a prima facie showing of purposeful discrimination by ‘showing that the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose’”; (2) the State “‘explain[s] adequately the racial exclusion’ by offering race-neutral justifications for the strikes”; and, (3) based on the justifications offered, the court decides “whether the State engaged in purposeful discrimination when it exercised the peremptory strike.” The panel made a “comparative juror analysis,” and found “significant evidence of pretext” that made the district court’s motion denial unreasonable. Specifically, the prosecution justified excluding one Hispanic juror because she did not have adult children, when three other jurors who were selected answered the same. The panel reversed the judgment and remanded to grant the application. REVERSED and REMANDED.

Advanced Search