Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cape Girardeau County Honorable
Benjamin F. Lewis
M. Hess, Chief Judge.
Henry Harris ("Appellant") appeals the judgment of
the Circuit Court of Cape Girardeau County, following a jury
trial, convicting him of one count of first-degree child
molestation in violation of § 566.067 and one count of
first-degree statutory sodomy in violation of § 566.062.
The trial court sentenced Appellant to two fifteen-year
sentences to run consecutively. On appeal, Appellant argues
that the trial court clearly erred in overruling his
Batson challenge because the State's peremptory
strike of an African-American juror was pretextual and
racially motivated. We affirm.
and Procedural History
was charged as a prior offender with one count of
first-degree child molestation and one count of first-degree
statutory sodomy resulting from incidents in August 2014 and
October 2014. His jury trial commenced on March 29, 2016.
During voir dire, the prosecutor asked the venire panel
whether anyone had ever been arrested or charged with a crime
other than a traffic offense. Venireperson L.B. stated that
he was charged with public intoxication when he was a
teenager. L.B. stated that the charge would not affect his
ability to be impartial.
prosecutor then asked the venire panel whether anyone would
be unable to be fair in hearing the case for any other
reason. Several jurors expressed an inability to be impartial
due to the nature of the charges. However, venireperson C.B.,
an African-American man, stated:
Well, you know, in my opinion, you know, and I'm not
taking sides, but this man is on trial and this is his life,
you know. In that certain instance, we have to hold the girls
accountable for what they say because none of us is on trial
for this. This is a serious matter. This man - you know, he
can go to jail for a long time, you know, so in that
question, yes, I'm going to hold them accountable for it,
you know. I mean I'm not going to say that they need to
detail every single thing, but they have to be pretty
accurate with their information.
the prosecutor asked C.B. whether he would be able to accept
the word of a child, he answered: "Yes, yes, as long as
it's accurate, you know. I just - I would rather be fair,
you know. To say that this man is guilty for these acts and
not have any facts and just accusation, you're going to
have to take everyone's word accountable."
the voir dire, the court took private questions from venire
panelists. Venireperson M.A. disclosed to the judge that he
was once convicted of a felony. The judge informed M.A. that
he was not eligible for jury service and released him. C.B.
disclosed that he was convicted of misdemeanor assault in
2007 and stated that he listed the crime on his jury
questionnaire. The judge then remarked that C.B. was the only
member of the venire panel that raised their hand when
defense counsel asked if anyone wanted to be on the jury. In
response, C.B. stated, "Yeah, because it seemed like
it's not going to be a fair trial. It's kind of
short. It's not a lot of people and it's a lot of
mixed emotions and I just feel like honestly I'm the only
one that's really looking at both sides just to me."
the prosecutor then asked whether C.B. wanted to be on the
jury to "to make sure that you can make it fair [to the
defendant], " the following exchange took place:
[C.B.]: That's a good question. I wouldn't say
I'm trying to make it fair to him. I just - instead of
feelings being involved in the judgment, the actual facts,
and you know, the details be brought out to light truthfully.
[The prosecutor]: Do you feel like you're kind of leaning
towards his side?
[C.B.]: No, because this is a terrible, terrible crime and I
just want everything to be brought ...