California Court of Appeal Adopts Rule Advocated by Sonali, Raghav

May 4, 2018

The California Court of Appeal ruled today in People v. Douglas that where a party strikes a prospective juror for an invidious reason, the fact that the party may have also had other, legitimate reasons for the strike is no cure—adopting the rule advocated by an amicus brief Sonali and Raghav wrote and submitted on behalf of amici curiæ Equality California, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

At trial, the prosecutor struck every openly gay man from the jury—in part, he admitted, because he didn’t believe they could be fair to a closeted gay man like the defendant. Although the Court of Appeal found that reason improper, it initially ordered the trial court to apply a “mixed-motive” analysis to determine whether the prosecutor’s other, putatively permissible reasons would nevertheless have supported the challenge. But on panel rehearing, it rejected the tests proposed by the state and the Los Angeles Public Defender—both of which would have permitted a prosecutor to justify a strike based in part on impermissible reasons—and adopted amici’s proposal, which would per se bar such strikes. Explaining that “[t]his case is about fairness and equality in our criminal justice system,” it concluded that “it is not appropriate to use [a mixed-motive test] when considering the remedy for invidious discrimination in jury selection, which should be free of any bias.”  Read the full opinion here.