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Haney v. United States

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

April 25, 2019

Travis Delonte HANEY, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

         Argued March 6, 2019

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          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, (CF2-7680-16), (Hon. José M. López, Trial Judge)

         Jennifer Williams, Public Defender Service, with whom Samia Fam and Jaclyn Frankfurt, Public Defender Service, were on the brief, for appellant.

         Christopher R. Howland, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jessie K. Liu, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Suzanne Grealy Curt, and Lauren Bressack, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

         Before Fisher, Easterly, and McLeese, Associate Judges.

          OPINION

         Fisher, Associate Judge 

         Travis Delonte Haney appeals his convictions for various weapon-related offenses, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling that he had not established a prima facie case of discrimination in the government’s exercise of peremptory strikes. See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). We reverse and remand for a new trial.

          I. Background and Procedural History

         Following a jury trial from January 17 through January 23, 2017, appellant Haney was found guilty of Counts II through V: carrying a pistol without a license; possession of an unregistered firearm; unlawful possession of ammunition; and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device. Judge José M. López thereafter found appellant guilty of Count I, unlawful possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a crime of violence.[1] Appellant was sentenced to serve seventy-two months of incarceration and five years of supervised release, and to pay various assessments to the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Fund. This appeal presents a claim of discrimination in jury selection based on race and gender as defense counsel objected that the government’s peremptory strikes disproportionately excluded black jurors and black male jurors.

         At the beginning of jury selection the venire consisted of fifty-four potential jurors.

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[2] According to the trial transcript, the list of peremptory strikes, and a stipulation between the parties based on the trial attorneys’ notes, twenty-five of the potential fifty-four jurors (or 46%) were black.[3] During this phase, the trial court asked potential jurors a list of questions, including an inquiry about any biases or strong feelings in favor of or against police. Responses tended to be racially divided - black jurors more frequently expressed distrust of the police while white jurors more frequently tended to believe that police testimony was trustworthy. After individual questioning fourteen jurors were stricken for cause, eight of whom were black. The parties then began to exercise peremptory strikes.

          A. Peremptory Strikes

          After strikes for cause, forty jurors were qualified for jury service but only the first thirty-six jurors were needed. This group of thirty-six contained fourteen black jurors (39%). The court instructed that the first fourteen jurors would fill the box, each party would exercise peremptory strikes two at a time until four strikes had been exercised, those stricken would be excused, and the empty seats in the jury box would be filled with jurors from the panel. Passes would be counted as ...


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