February 01st, 2018
Louisiana v. Broussard
Opinion Date: January 30, 2018
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Defendant Larry Broussard, Jr. was convicted of aggravated flight from an officer. During voir dire, defense counsel challenged, pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, the state’s use of a backstrike against an African-American female prospective juror from the first panel. Specifically, defense counsel noted that the state had not previously challenged this prospective juror for cause and stated without further elaboration that “it seems like she’s one of two potential black jurors.”
In response to the trial court’s request for a race-neutral reason for the backstrike, the state ultimately gave two: (1) the prospective juror’s occupation as a housekeeper; and (2) she was not intelligent enough to be a juror. After the trial court resoundingly rejected the state’s characterization of the prospective juror’s intelligence, the state then claimed she was inattentive during the questioning of the second panel. In a split-panel decision, the court of appeal reversed, with the majority finding a Batson violation in the state’s exclusion of the backstruck prospective juror, and thereby deeming a second assignment of error moot.
The court of appeal vacated the conviction and sentence and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The state contended the court of appeal erred in failing to recognize that defendant was never required to make a prima facie showing of purposeful discrimination in Batson’s first step. The state also contended that, even if a prima facie showing was made, both of its reasons for backstriking the prospective juror were racially neutral, and the trial court never found that they were pretexts for purposeful discrimination. Therefore, the state claims that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Batson challenge.
The Louisiana Supreme Court disagreed: “While we are mindful that a trial court’s determination as to purposeful discrimination rests largely on credibility evaluations and is therefore entitled to great deference, we note that the trial court rejected the state’s first proffered reason and we cannot presume the trial court accepted the state’s demeanor-based proffered reason. Therefore, we find that the court of appeal correctly applied 'Snyder’ [Snyder v. Louisiana, 552 U.S. 472 (2010)] to vacate the conviction and sentence and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.” The court of appeal’s decision was affirmed.
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