State v. Hurd, 246 N.C. App. 281 (Mar. 15, 2016)

In this capital murder case involving an African American defendant and victims, the trial court did not err by sustaining the State’s reverse Batson challenge. The defendant exercised 11 peremptory challenges, 10 against white and Hispanic jurors. The only black juror that the defendant challenged was a probation officer. The defendant’s acceptance rate of black jurors was 83%; his acceptance rate for white and Hispanic jurors was 23%. When the State raised a Batson challenge, defense counsel explained that he struck the juror in question, Juror 10, a white male, because he indicated that he favored capital punishment as a matter of disposition. Yet, the court noted, that juror also stated that being in the jury box made him “stop and think” about the death penalty, that he did not have strong feelings for or against the death penalty, and he considered the need for facts to support a sentence. Also, the defendant accepted Juror 8, a black female, whose views were “strikingly similar” to those held by Juror 10. Additionally, the defendant had unsuccessfully filed a pretrial motion to prevent the State from exercising peremptory strikes against any prospective black jurors. This motion was not made in response to any discriminatory action of record and was made in a case that is not inherently susceptible to racial discrimination. In light of the record, the court concluded that the trial court did not err by sustaining the State’s Batson objection.