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Castellanos v. Small

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 9, 2014

ANTHONY CASTELLANOS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
LARRY SMALL, Warden, Respondent-Appellee

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California June 2, 2014

Page 1138

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1139

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No.2:08-cv-08177-JVS-DTB. James V. Selna, District Judge, Presiding.

Habeas Corpus

The panel reversed the district court's judgment denying an application for habeas corpus, and remanded with instructions to grant the application, in a case in which the petitioner asserted that the prosecution engaged in purposeful discrimination in violation of Batson v. Kentucky when it exercised four peremptory strikes against Hispanic venirepersons.

After reviewing the state court's determination of no purposeful discrimination with respect to the striking of Venireperson 4968, together with a side-by-side comparison of the venirepersons at issue and the empaneled jurors, and other relevant circumstantial and direct evidence of intent to discriminate, the panel concluded that the prosecutor's factually-erroneous stated reason for striking Venireperson 4968 -- that she didn't have children -- was pretextual. The panel concluded that the petitioner's state court proceedings resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), and that the district court therefore erred in denying the petitioner's application for habeas relief.

Gia Kim (argued), Deputy Federal Public Defender; Sean K. Kennedy, Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, California, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Scott Taryle (argued), Supervising Deputy Attorney General; Timothy M. Weiner and Stephanie C. Brenan, Deputy Attorneys General; Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General; Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: Stephen Reinhardt, John T. Noonan, and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Murguia.

OPINION

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MURGUIA, Circuit Judge

Petitioner Anthony Castellanos was convicted in California state court of murder, assault with a firearm, and street gang solicitation. On direct appeal, the California Court of Appeal affirmed Castellanos's convictions, concluding that the prosecution had not engaged in purposeful discrimination in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), when it exercised four peremptory strikes against Hispanic venirepersons. The district court denied Castellanos's application for habeas relief. Because we conclude that Castellanos's state court proceedings " resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), we reverse the district court's judgment and remand with instructions to grant Castellanos's application.

I.

Petitioner Anthony Castellanos, who was 17 years old at the time of the incident giving rise to this case, was at his apartment with his 11-year-old and 12-year-old neighbors, Joey and Nicky. Castellanos was trying to recruit Nicky to join his gang, the King Kobras, but Nicky had previously refused. Castellanos, who had been cooking French fries in the kitchen, walked into the living room where Nicky was sitting on the couch, pulled a gun from his waist, and pointed it at Joey and Nicky. Joey ducked, fearful of what might happen. Castellanos then turned and

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pointed the gun directly at Nicky, put his finger on the trigger, and said, " What do you think about this?" He fired, shooting Nicky in the head.

Castellanos was charged in Los Angeles County Superior Court with murder, see Cal. Penal Code § 187(a), assault with a firearm, see Cal. Penal Code § 245(a), and street gang solicitation, see Cal. Penal Code § 186.26(a). On the murder and assault charges, the government's information alleged that Castellanos had personally used a firearm, and on the assault charge, it alleged that he committed the offense for the benefit of a criminal street gang. Castellanos pleaded not guilty to all charges and proceeded to a jury trial.

A.

Voir dire took place in March 2005. After the venirepersons were introduced to the parties and the potential witnesses, the prosecutor began questioning the venirepersons. He started by asking each venireperson to answer " the questions on the board," which appear to have been

(1) Where do you live?
(2) What is your occupation?
(3) Are you married; if so, what is your spouse's occupation?
(4) Do you have adult children; if so, how many?
(5) Have you ever sat on a jury?

In total, 29 venirepersons were questioned.[1] In some instances, after a venireperson had answered the questions on the board, the prosecutor would follow up by asking additional questions, such as the occupations of the venireperson's adult children, the type of case (civil or criminal) on which the venireperson sat as a juror, and whether that jury had reached a verdict.

After each venireperson had answered the questions directed specifically to him or her, the prosecutor posed additional questions to the group. Those questions included, as is relevant to this appeal, (1) whether any venireperson was " related to or . . . ha[d] close friends in law enforcement," (2) whether any venireperson or a relative " ha[d] . . . ever been victims of a crime," (3) whether any venireperson or relative had " ever been charged with or arrested for an offense," and (4) whether any venireperson was " familiar with gangs or criminal street gangs." The prosecutor concluded by asking whether " there [is] anything that you believe is important to disclose at this time that has not yet been asked that would affect the impartiality or sitting as a juror on this case?" Over the course of questioning, the prosecutor elicited the following information from each of the venirepersons at issue in this appeal.

Venirewoman 4968 (Seat 2)

Venirewoman 4968 was a Hispanic female from Santa Fe Springs, California. She worked for a bread company. At the time of trial, she was divorced and had two adult children.[2] One of her children--her

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daughter--did not work at the time, and her son worked for " export magazines" in " [a] lot of cities." Her ex-husband worked for Boeing, and she had never before served on a jury.

Venireman 3693 (Seat 5)

Venireman 3693 was a Hispanic male from La Puente, California. He worked as a salesman for Bernard and Sons, an electrical product retail company. His wife worked as a day care provider for La Puente Unified School District. At the time of ...


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