January 26, 2017

Supreme Court unanimously affirms death sentence, with concurring opinion on Batson/Wheeler issues

The Supreme Court today affirms the death sentence in People v. Winbush.  As is typical in automatic direct death penalty appeals, the court’s unanimous opinion — by Justice Carol Corrigan — requires almost 100 pages to reject a host of arguments.

One of the defendant’s arguments is that the prosecution had a racially discriminatory motive in peremptorily challenging three African-American prospective jurors.  The court upholds what it calls the superior court’s “unusually detailed, careful ruling” that had found no racial discrimination.  Justice Goodwin Liu signs the court’s opinion, but writes a concurring opinion to discuss “two aspects of our Batson/Wheeler jurisprudence that merit reexamination in an appropriate case.”  Justice Liu has similarly written separately in other cases.

The court will be revisiting Batson/Wheeler issues in the future, including in People v. Enriquez, which will be argued on the March calendar.

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