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Beasley v. United States

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

November 21, 2019

Mark BEASLEY, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

         Argued June 12, 2019

Page 1012

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF1-5953-15), (Hon. José M. López, Trial Judge)

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

         Peter Smith, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jessie K. Liu, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman and Michelle Jackson, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

         Before Beckwith and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.

         OPINION

         Beckwith, Associate Judge:

Page 1013

          During jury selection at appellant Mark Beasley’s criminal trial, the government used eight of its ten peremptory strikes against black jurors. Mr. Beasley appeals his subsequent convictions, arguing that the trial court erred in determining that he failed to make out a prima facie case of discriminatory intent based on the government’s use of peremptory strikes. See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). We agree and therefore reverse Mr. Beasley’s convictions.

          I.

         Mr. Beasley was charged with murder, assault, and gun-related offenses stemming from an incident outside a nightclub. At the start of trial, the court indicated that it would be using the "Arizona method" for picking jurors, meaning that, rather than implementing peremptory challenges round by round, each side would list all ten of its peremptory challenges[1] at once and then exchange lists. After the court reviewed each list, the parties would repeat the process for the four alternate seats.[2]

         Individual questioning lasted three days and resulted in a venire of forty-eight qualified potential jurors. Sixteen of those potential jurors, or 33% of the venire, were black. When the parties began exercising peremptory challenges, the government used eight of its ten challenges to strike black jurors and used another challenge to strike a Latino juror.[3] After reviewing the strike sheets, defense counsel raised a challenge pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. at 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712, in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that in a criminal case, the use of a peremptory challenge to strike a prospective juror solely on the basis of race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court completed the process for the alternate jurors[4] and then turned to Mr. Beasley’s Batson challenge.

         Mr. Beasley argued that the government used nine of its peremptory strikes "for people of suspect classifications, eight African American and one Latino." He asserted that "[e]ight African Americans based on my calculations is roughly 50 percent of the African Americans who are in the entire venire" and "100 percent of the Latinos." In response, the prosecutor acknowledged having struck eight black jurors, summarized the racial breakdown of Mr. Beasley’s own peremptory strikes,[5] and noted that the defense struck two of the same black jurors: "So if you take away the very two that they struck, we struck ... six black people, three white people, and one Latino individual." Defense counsel reiterated that the ...


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