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Home / Opinions / Courts / Court of Appeals, Eastern District / Criminal Law: First-Degree Murder – Batson – Deliberation

Criminal Law: First-Degree Murder – Batson – Deliberation

Where a defendant convicted of first-degree murder had a confrontation with the victim, threatened to hurt him, drove home to get a gun and returned to shoot the victim, the record supported a finding that the defendant deliberated before the shooting, but the trial court erred in overruling the defendant’s objection to the state’s peremptory strike of an African-American juror because the court improperly analyzed the Batson challenge.

Judgment is reversed and remanded.

No clear error

Dissenting opinion by Romines, J.: “I find the transcript of voir dire reveals the trial court’s consideration of the strikes proper and indeed thorough. What is reflected is not the narrow version of the majority but a rather rough and tumble exercise between two good young lawyers….

“The majority ignores the standard of review and reaches the bald conclusion that the trial court ‘improperly analyzed’ the Batson challenge. Indeed the majority does not analyze how it reached these conclusions. After trotting out the standard of review–clear error–the majority proceeds to require the record to prove that the trial judge made the correct decision. This is not our task, and in fact turns the standard on its head. The error must be clear–must jump off the page in a manner of speaking. Here the majority says they will not speculate as to motives, yet I see no other way they were able to find clear error.

“The majority only discusses in a vacuum the inter-play involving two veniremen. They conclude these were similarly situated. They gloss over the substance of the questions, concluding for the trial judge that there was no way to interpret from either venireman any bent toward leniency, harshness, or otherwise. However, it is clear the trial judge did see the bent to their questions, and this was the trial judge’s question to determine. That is where we as an appellate court must stop. Just because one judge may have given Thompson the benefit of the doubt does not mean that another has to when Thompson asks follow-up questions about degrees of the crime and sentencing. We did not see the demeanor–we did not actually hear the answers; the trial court did. Our standard requires the record to prove clear error, and there simply is none.”

Judgment is reversed and remanded.

State v. Bateman (MLW No. 58691/Case No. ED89968 – 15 pages) (Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, Draper III, J.) Appealed from circuit court, St. Louis City, Moriarty, J. (Jessica Hathaway, St. Louis, for appellant) (Shaun J. Mackelprang, Jefferson City, for respondent).