COURT REVERSED FOR A NEW TRIAL FINDING THE TRIAL COURT SHOULD NOT HAVE ALLOWED THE STATE TO EXERCISE A PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE ON AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN JUROR, BECAUSE THE REASONS ARTICULATED FOR THE STRIKE WERE NOT GENUINE
Gibson v. State, Fla. L. Weekly D152 (Fla. 2nd DCA January 13, 2021):
The prosecutor gave three reasons for striking an African-American member of the venire: (1) that she expressed a fear of public speaking, and somehow related that to the defendant having the right not to testify; (2) that the potential juror demonstrated a non-verbal lack of interest or attentiveness; and (3) that the potential juror did not seem overly interested in the process, and was not interacting with the prosecutor. The trial court struck the juror.
In finding that the responses by the State were not genuine, the court pointed out that there was no one to confirm the juror’s inattentiveness or disinterest (if it is not observed on the record, the trial court must make some observation to support the strike for appeal).
Also, the State’s assertion that the potential juror was not interested in the proceeding was not supported when the State claimed that she only rated her interest in being there as a “3 out of 10,” when the State had accepted another venire person who rated her own interest as being a “1 out of 10.”
Finally, there was no connection between the public speaking comment and the defendant’s right not to testify. Because the court concluded the State had not presented a sufficient race-neutral basis for its peremptory strike of the venire person, it reversed for new trial.