State v. McQueen, ___ N.C. App. ___, 790 S.E.2d 897 (Sept. 20, 2016)

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s Batson challenges in this capital case. The two victims and the eyewitness were Palestinian and the defendant was black. The State exercised a peremptory strike against Juror 2, a black male. When questioned about the death penalty, Juror 2 stated that he would not agree to the death penalty under any circumstances, elaborating that he was a pastor and that agreeing with the death penalty would make him a hypocrite; he added that he might hypothetically agree to the death penalty in one specified gruesome scenario. Reservations concerning ability to impose the death penalty constitute a racially neutral basis for exercising a peremptory challenge. The State exercised a peremptory strike against Juror 10, a black female. After the defendant raised a Batson challenge, the State provided reasons for the strike: Juror 10’s thoughts about the death penalty; her failure to disclose her criminal charges; reservations about whether law enforcement treated her brother fairly; and her lack of eye contact when asked whether her brother’s prosecution would affect her ability to be fair and impartial. These are racially neutral reasons for striking a juror. The State exercised a peremptory strike against Juror 11, a black male; it did not strike Juror 12, a white male. Jurors 11 and 12 were charged with writing worthless checks and driving while license revoked in the past and both knew a potential witness in the case. However, Juror 12 responded directly to questions about his criminal charges while Juror 11 minimized his criminal history; Juror 11 avoided questions regarding his family members’ criminal charges; Juror 12 had a business relationship with the witness whereas Juror 11 spoke with him on multiple occasions and his grandniece worked for the witness. The trial court did not commit clear error in rejecting the defendant’s Batson challenges