Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis
2722-CR05888-01 Honorable Robin Ransom Vannoy
M. Dowd, Presiding Judge
Crawford appeals from the judgment entered upon his
conviction following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of the
City of St. Louis of one count of second-degree murder, two
counts of first-degree assault, one count of first-degree
robbery, and four counts of armed criminal action, for which
he received a sentence of life imprisonment plus twenty
years. In his sole point on appeal, Crawford contends that
the trial court clearly erred by overruling his challenge
under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) to the
State's peremptory strike of Venireperson 27, an
African-American whose job included quality assurance duties.
no reversible error, we affirm. Standard of Review and Legal
Principles Applicable to a Batson Challenge
review for clear error the trial court's ruling on a
Batson challenge. State v. Murray, 428
S.W.3d 705, 709 (Mo.App.E.D. 2014); see also State v.
McFadden, 216 S.W.3d 673, 675 (Mo.banc 2007). The trial
court's ruling is clearly erroneous if we are left with
the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
made. Murray, 428 S.W.3d at 709 (citing
McFadden, 216 S.W.3d 673, 675 (Mo.banc 2007)). We
accord the trial court great deference on a Batson
challenge because its findings of fact depend largely on its
evaluation of credibility and demeanor. Id. (citing
State v. Bateman, 318 S.W.3d 681, 687 (Mo.banc
Missouri Supreme Court has articulated a three-step procedure
for trial courts to use in evaluating a Batson
challenge by a criminal defendant: First, the defendant must
raise a Batson challenge with regard to a specific
venireperson struck by the State and identify the cognizable
racial group to which the venireperson belongs. In step two,
the trial court shall require the State to come forward with
a clear, reasonably-specific, and race-neutral explanation
for the strike. And in step three, assuming the prosecutor is
able to articulate an explanation for the strike that
satisfies step two, the burden shifts to the defendant to
show that the State's stated reason for the strike was a
mere pretext and that the strike was racially motivated.
State v. Meeks, 495 S.W.3d 168, 173 (Mo.banc 2016)
(describing the three-step procedure) (citing State v.
Parker, 836 S.W.2d 930, 939 (Mo.banc 1992)).
Missouri Supreme Court, particularly with respect to steps
two and three, has laid out certain benchmarks and parameters
to follow in a Batson challenge analysis. For
instance, the Court has pointed out that the second step of
Missouri's Batson procedure "does not
demand an explanation that is persuasive, or even plausible,
" but requires only "facial validity."
State v. Pointer, 215 S.W.3d 303, 306 (Mo.App.W.D.
2007). The Court has referred to the second step as requiring
merely "the identification of a reason, even a
nonsensical one, for striking a juror."
Edwards, 116 S.W.3d at 526.
with regard to step three, the Court has directed that in
determining whether the defendant has met his burden of proof
to show pretext, the trial court should take into account
various factors, including, but not limited to, (1) chiefly,
the plausibility of the prosecutor's explanations in
light of the totality of the facts and circumstances
surrounding the case; (2) the existence of similarly-situated
jurors of another race who were not struck by the
prosecution; (3) the degree of logical relevance between the
proffered explanation and the case to be tried in terms of
the kind of crime charged, the nature of the evidence to be
adduced, and the potential punishment if the defendant is
convicted; (4) the prosecutor's demeanor or the
prosecutor's statements during voir dire, as well as the
demeanor of the excluded venireperson; (5) the court's
past experiences with the prosecutor; and (6) objective
factors bearing on the State's motive to discriminate on
the basis of race, such as the conditions prevailing in the
community and the race of the defendant, the victim, and the
material witnesses. Parker, 836 S.W.2d at 939, 940.
that Crawford has failed to show that the trial court clearly
erred by overruling his Batson challenge.
Specifically, with respect to step two, we find that Crawford
has not demonstrated that the State's reason for striking
Venireperson 27 was not clear, reasonably specific, and
race-neutral. We also find with respect to step three that
Crawford has failed to show that the State's reason was a
pretext for racial discrimination.
begin our analysis with step two of the Batson
challenge in this case. The State claimed that it struck
Venireperson 27 because she worked in "quality
assurance, " which the State was concerned would affect
her view of the case. The State asserted that it had
troubling experiences with jurors who pursuant to their
employment made determinations based on "taking
complaints" and "compiling information of people
calling in." While Crawford asserts that the State's
explanation was factually inaccurate, vague, illegitimate,
unrelated to the issues of the case, and merely a pretext for
racial animus, vagueness is the only issue we must address in
our analysis of step two, because in that step the State is
required only to state a reason for its strike that is clear,
reasonably specific, and race-neutral.
noted in State v. Alford, 2017 WL 588183, *2
(Mo.App.E.D. 2017), that the State is not required in the
second step of Missouri's Batson procedure to
provide an explanation that "relates to the case to be
tried" or that is "legitimate." Those are
concerns left for the third step of the procedure. State
v. Edwards, 116 S.W.3d 511, 527 (Mo.banc 2003).
Moreover, because the second step is concerned only with
facial validity, the factual accuracy of the State's
explanation for the strike is not at issue. A
factually-inaccurate explanation for a strike may still be
clear, reasonably-specific, and race-neutral, and is not
always inherently discriminatory. Because the fundamental,
overarching question on a Batson challenge is
whether the strike constituted purposeful
discrimination, 476 U.S. at 93; Parker, 836 S.W.2d
at 935, 939, the State's explanation for its strike is
not necessarily discriminatory or facially invalid just
because it rests on a misstatement or is rooted in a
misperception of fact. The State may have made an honest
mistake without any discriminatory purpose.
with respect to step two, we need to address only one of
Crawford's objections: that the State's explanation
for striking Venireperson 27 was vague. The State had a low
bar to clear-facial validity-in carrying its burden to
provide a clear, reasonably-specific, and race-neutral reason
for its strike. Crawford contends the State's explanation
was vague and the trial court erred by failing to ask the
State about its experiences with jurors similar to
Venireperson 27-in particular, how those experiences were
logically relevant to the decision to strike Venireperson 27.
disagree. We find the State's explanation that
Venireperson 27's employment duties included quality
assurance and that the State had troubling experience with
jurors whose jobs involved "taking complaints and
compiling information of people calling in, " was
sufficient to satisfy the State's burden in step two.
Indeed, it may not even be possible for the State to deduce
why employees with such experience have been unfavorable
jurors; the party defending its strike, whether the State or
the defendant (see Georgia v. McCoJhim,505 U.S. 42
(1992) (holding that the State may challenge a criminal
defendant's peremptory strikes)), may observe a
correlation but not be able to explain the cause. Therefore,
it was enough for the State to assert that it was concerned
Venireperson 27's employment experience would affect her
view of the case because such a result had occurred in cases
involving jurors with similar experience. That was a clear
and reasonably-specific race-neutral ...