Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, March 28, 2014


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Judge’s Erroneous Rejection of Two Challenges for Cause Didn’t Require Awarding Two Extra Challenges—S.C.


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The California Supreme Court held yesterday that a trial court’s erroneous rejection of two for-cause challenges to prospective jurors, thus forcing the defendant to use peremptory challenges, did not entitle the defendant to two extra peremptory challenges upon his request.

The defendant, Charles Black, was on trial for animal cruelty. After exhausting all peremptory challenges, there were still two persons in the jury box he wanted to eject.

One of them got on the panel. Black was convicted.

Black argued on appeal that the two jurors he wanted to disqualify for cause should have been excused—and the Office of Attorney General did not dispute that. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court held in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ming Chin,  the judge’s refusal to grant two extra peremptory challenges does not require reversal.

Chin wrote:

“We find that defendant cured any error that occurred when the trial court denied his for-cause challenges because he removed those jurors with two peremptory challenges.  We also conclude that the trial court was under no statutory obligation to grant defendant extra peremptory challenges to remove additional, otherwise competent, jurors.”

Black conceded that the juror he wanted to bump, but couldn’t, was not subject to a challenge for cause. Chin said the prospective juror was simply someone Black “personally found objectionable for other lawful reasons.”

Citing People v. Yeoman (2003) 31 Cal.4th 93, Chin said:

“When a defendant uses peremptory challenges to excuse prospective jurors who should have been removed for cause, a defendant’s right to an impartial jury is affected only when he exhausts his peremptory challenges and an incompetent juror, meaning a juror who should have been removed for cause, sits on the jury that decides the case.”

Chin’s opinion was signed by all seven members of the court. Justice Goodwin Liu added a concurring opinion, in which Justice Joyce Kennard concurred.

Liu remarked:

“A defendant cannot be said to have suffered substantial disadvantage with respect to the prosecution from the seating of a single objectionable juror.  Neither the prosecution nor the defense has the right to an ideal jury, and both sides must sometimes accept less-than-ideal jurors given the limitations of the jury pool and available peremptory strikes.  In the present case, the record reveals only one seated juror whom defendant would have peremptorily challenged.  Because defendant suffered no substantial disadvantage in jury selection relative to the prosecution, I concur in the court’s judgment.”

The case is People v. Black, 2014 MetNews 1557.


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