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State v. Miller

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 22, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARQUISE D. MILLER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Stuart P. Werling, Judge.

         The defendant appeals from his convictions for eluding, theft in the second degree, and accessory after the fact. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Christopher M. Soppe of Pioneer Law Office, Dubuque, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         Marquise Miller appeals from his convictions for eluding, theft in the second degree, and accessory after the fact. Miller maintains the State's use of two of its peremptory strikes to remove the only two black potential jurors was racially motivated, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89 (1986). The trial court rejected that claim, and on appeal Miller maintains the court's ruling was in error.[1]

         Because a Batson challenge implicates the constitution, we review this claim de novo. See State v. Griffin, 564 N.W.2d 370, 372 (Iowa 1997) ("We review the defendant's constitutional challenges de novo.").

         The Equal Protection Clause prohibits prosecutors from using peremptory strikes to remove potential jurors from serving "solely on account of their race." Batson, 476 U.S. at 89.

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.

State v. Mootz, 808 N.W.2d 207, 215 (Iowa 2012). To establish a prima facie case, Miller must show (1) he is a member of a cognizable racial group, (2) the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to remove a member of a cognizable racial group from the jury; and (3) the "facts and any other relevant circumstances raise an inference that the prosecutor used the strike to exclude" the juror on the account of the juror's race. See Batson, 476 U.S. at 96; see also Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 416 (1991) (holding the defendant and the prospective juror do not have to be the same race to qualify for a Batson challenge). "In determining whether a defendant has established the requisite showing of purposeful discrimination, the court should consider all relevant circumstances including, but not limited to, a pattern of strikes against black jurors, as well as the prosecutor's questions and statements during voir dire." State v. Knox, 464 N.W.2d 445, 448 (Iowa 1990).

         Here, it is undisputed that Miller is black and the prosecutor struck two potential jurors who were black. The question for the prima facie case is whether there are circumstances that "raise an inference that the prosecutor used the strike to exclude" jurors on the account of race.

         The State maintained that it had struck the first of the potential jurors because she indicated she had a negative experience with law enforcement. When asked about the details, the potential juror stated that her granddaughter was killed by an off-duty police officer who was driving sixty miles per hour in a school zone. When she was asked if it would be difficult for her to serve on a criminal case, she responded:

No. It's just that, if I could have met him and, you know, asked him some questions. Why? Why would he go so fast in a school zone? He wasn't ticketed. He wasn't nothing, and I don't feel that that was right because he should have got a ticket or something for going that fast in a school zone. I would be ticketed if I were going that fast in a school zone and hit a kid. I probably would have went to jail. I know I would have, and it just wasn't right. But I ...

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