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Richmond juror strike OK in federal court

Litigators who like to catalogue race-neutral bases for striking prospective jurors can add another one that has worked in federal court in Richmond: being a veteran of a Richmond jury.

A 1986 case, Batson v. Kentucky, and its progeny protect parties against an exercise of peremptory strikes based on race or gender. In U.S. v. Williams, an unpublished opinion released last week by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a defendanct convicted on a firearm charge said the prosecution had illegally struck black jurors from the venire.

When challenged under Batson, the government “explained that it struck the first two jurors because they appeared uninterested and looked like they were falling asleep,” according to the per curiam opinion. The third juror was struck because he “appeared to be leering, smirking and not taking the proceedings seriously.”

And the fourth strike?

The prosecutor expressed a dislike for working with jurors who previously served on Richmond juries, saying, “If I see a Richmond juror, I just usually want to strike them. … Richmond jurors tend to have not great experiences, and I don’t like dealing with Richmond jurors.”

The Richmond bias was not a racial bias, under the district court ruling. The 4th Circuit panel of Judges J. Harvie Wilkinson, Paul Niemeyer and Roger Gregory, affirmed the lower court.

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