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Roach v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 20, 2017

Eugene Roach, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 49G09-1601-F6-5 The Honorable Ronnie Huerta, Commissioner

          Attorney for Appellant Suzy St. John Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana James B. Martin Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Barnes, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Eugene Roach appeals his conviction for Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. We remand.

         Issues

         [¶2] Roach raises two issues, but we address one dispositive issue, which we restate as whether the trial court properly denied his Batson challenge.[1]

         Facts

         [¶3] Indiana State Police Trooper Thomas Bennett was involved in a traffic stop in Marion County when a woman alerted him to a nearby situation. Trooper Bennett saw Roach and a woman near a bicycle and saw Roach hit the woman. Trooper Bennett yelled, "[H]ey, stop, police!" Tr. p. 135. Roach made eye contact with Trooper Bennett, got on his bicycle, and pedaled away. A bystander intervened and blocked Roach from leaving, and Trooper Bennett arrested Roach. The State charged Roach with Level 6 felony criminal confinement, Class A misdemeanor battery, and Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. The State later dismissed the criminal confinement and battery charges.

         [¶4] During voir dire of Roach's jury trial on the resisting law enforcement charge, the State asked, "What are some duties of law enforcement officers that you can think of? Mr. James, what are some duties of law enforcement officers that you can think of?" Tr. p. 68. After discussing the matter with a couple of prospective jurors, the State asked, "Mr. Wilson, you got anything to add to that?" Id. Prospective Juror Wilson ("Juror Wilson") responded, "Do the right thing." Id. Defense counsel also gave a hypothetical about the victim of an assault walking away from a police officer. She then asked, "How about you, Mr. Wilson? How do you feel about it?" Id. at 81. Juror Wilson responded, "I INAUDIBLE press charges." Id. These were the only verbal interactions with Juror Wilson evident on the record.

         [¶5] The State apparently used a peremptory challenge to strike Juror Wilson. Defense counsel then told the trial court, "[I]t's possible we're raising a Batson challenge, because he was the only African American on the panel." Id. at 97. The trial court said, "It's a little premature still. INAUDIBLE juror seven." Id. Defense co-counsel then said, "I was about to say he was the only black man in the Jury pool . . . ." Id. Defense co-counsel then noted, "For the record, I note that Mr. Kevin Wilson, who is juror number fourteen is the only black male in the Jury pool. Our client is a black male." Id. at 98-99. Defense co-counsel argued that Juror Wilson's answers during voir dire were not different than two white males-Mr. Bercot and Mr. Coble-that were also questioned. In response, the State said:

First, the reason that Mr. Wilson was struck was Mr. Wilson's body language throughout the entirety of voir dire, particularly given when Mr. Clapp was asking [a] question. The first thing that I wrote on my Jury questionnaire was skeptical and then I wrote disengaged. In addition to that, which I found problematic given the way that he was acting in the Jury box, given that combined with the fact that when Ms. Zuran questioned him about whether or not he would stop if a police officer asked him to stop, he said no, I wouldn't stop. So, given the facts of this case, I think those two things combined lead to our strikes. Now, additionally, Ms. Frick said that she took some notes about Mr. Wilson not saying anything different from Mr. Bercot and from Mr. Coble. As far as I recall, Mr. Wilson didn't say anything different from juror, Jason Costa, who is a white male who we struck for the same reason that we struck Mr. Wilson. Those being that he tended to agree with the questions that defense was asking and his general attitude.

Id. at 99-100. Defense co-counsel responded:

I would note that in fact, Mr. Bercot did say that you would have a right to walk away and that there was no need to respond [to] an officer and again, for the record, I will note Mr. Bercot is a white male and I'd also note, I say this for respectively, but Mr. Seitz is not a mind reader. He can't tell whether or not Mr. Wilson was disengaged and skeptical. In fact, Ms. Eder, who is on the Jury said, she ...

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