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Batson, Habeas, and Double Deference

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If the defense claims that the prosecutor is challenging jurors on the basis of race, and the prosecutor asserts race-neutral reasons, who decides if the prosecutor is telling the truth?  The trial judge does.  The appellate court's review of that decision is deferential -- "substantial evidence."  On federal habeas, review is "doubly deferential."  Habeas is denied if the state appellate court's deferential review of the trial court is at least reasonable.

Briggs v. Grounds, No. 10-16683, decided by the Ninth Circuit today, is a good example.  The opinion is by Judge Tallman, joined by Judge Graber.  Judge Berzon dissents.  All three were appointed by President Clinton, for those who like to keep track.

The case is also an example of how a rule that sounds good in theory can produce a lot of unproductive litigation.  Here are the facts of the case, from the opinion:
On June 9, 2002, Briggs climbed through a second-floor window of an apartment building in the Lockwood Tevis neighborhood of Oakland, California, and sexually assaulted two 13-year-old Asian girls. In picking the jury, the prosecutor intended to rely on the following evidence on which the jury later convicted Briggs: the medical examiner's report that confirmed one of the girls sustained oral, anal, and genital injuries from blunt penetration trauma, both victims' pretrial identification of Briggs, and evidence of Briggs's fingerprints recovered from the scene. There was, however, no DNA evidence.
The fingerprints are sufficient to negate any substantial claim of an actual miscarriage of justice.  Why do we need multiple reviews?  Shouldn't the review of the prosecutor's challenges by the trial court and California's First District Court of Appeal be sufficient for a purely procedural claim?

The "Friendly filter" looks better and better as the years go on.

BTW, the perp got "265 years to life."

1 Comment

Hopefully, he won't be parole eligible like this creep:


Maybe he never hurts anyone again. Roll the dice with too many of these people, a vicious crime is a near certainty.

When you kidnap 26 kids and a busdriver and leave them to die, death really is the only appropriate punishment.

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