FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS The Honorable
Margaret M. Neill, Judge
C. WILSON, JUDGE
Meeks was tried on charges of first-degree assault and armed
criminal action. Following voir dire, Meeks challenged one of
the prosecutor's peremptory strikes under Batson v.
Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The trial court overruled
this challenge, the case went to trial, and the jury found
Meeks guilty on both counts. On appeal, Meeks argues that the
trial court erred in denying his Batson challenge.
This Court has jurisdiction. Mo. Const. art. V, § 10.
Because the prosecutor failed to offer a race-neutral
explanation for the strike, Batson requires that
Meeks' convictions be vacated and his case remanded.
alleged victim ("Victim") is a Mexican native. At
the time of alleged crime, Victim was living in the City of
St. Louis in an apartment he shared with two roommates
("Roommates"). On the morning of July 4, 2012,
Roommates invited Victim to visit friends in the apartment
next door. Roommates left the apartment and waited outside
for Victim to join them. While they waited, a man (later
identified as Meeks) approached them and said he was looking
for the man who took his girlfriend.
Victim stepped out of the apartment carrying a can of beer,
Meeks accosted him and said Victim was the man he was looking
for. Victim said he did not know who Meeks was looking for
and turned to walk away. Meeks then took a gun from behind
his back and pointed it at the back of Victim's head.
Seeing Meeks' gun, Roommates ran back into the apartment.
This alerted Victim, who turned and tried to take the gun
away from Meeks. During the struggle, Meeks shot Victim in
the lower abdomen. As Meeks was preparing to shoot again,
Victim threw the beer can at him and tried to get away. Meeks
then shot Victim a second time and fled the scene.
interviewed several witnesses at the scene who gave a
description of Victim's assailant. These witnesses also
led police to a young woman ("CC"), who had been
Meeks' girlfriend and who had spent time at Victim's
apartment complex because she had friends who lived there.
When the police relayed the witnesses' description of
Victim's assailant to CC, she agreed that it described
Meeks. Following Meeks' arrest, police conducted an
in-person lineup in which both Victim and one of the
Roommates were able to identify Meeks. Meeks was charged with
one count of assault in the first degree under section
565.050 and one count of armed
criminal action under section 571.015.
the prosecutor concluded her voir dire of the venire,
 defense counsel asked whether anyone
would have difficulty presuming that Meeks was innocent.
Venireperson A responded:
[VENIREPERSON A]: Statistically speaking, we live in the
seventh most dangerous city in the United States. And I hate
to go into race here. But statistically, we're in St.
Louis; he's black. There's more into it, but I
don't know those facts. But it's more than likely he
did something. I'm not saying - what's the word.
It's more likely he's guilty.
However, I personally don't believe there's evidence
backing that up. There is no weapon, there is no -
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: You don't know. We haven't gotten
into the evidence yet. ….
And I don't want to open a can of worms the Judge
doesn't want to open at ten to five with a few things
said there. But does anyone share any of those sentiments, or
is everyone able to do what the Judge is asking of them and
required in the instruction and presume that [Meeks] is
innocent because you haven't heard any evidence yet? Is
everyone able to do that? [No responses indicated.] All
right. Thank you.
conclusion of voir dire, the venire was excused and the trial
court heard motions to strike for cause. Among other motions,
the prosecutor moved to strike Venireperson A. Defense
counsel did not object, and the motion was sustained. Later,
in proceedings held off the record, the prosecutor and
defense counsel made their peremptory strikes.
Meeks' Batson Challenge
the prosecutor and defense counsel announced their peremptory
strikes,  the trial court went back on
the record to hear Meeks' Batson challenge.
THE COURT: Go ahead. [Defense counsel, ] you indicated you
have a Batson motion?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Yes, your Honor. The State is moving to