Antonio R. Whitfield, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff
from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Stanley E. Kroh,
Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 49G03-1802-F5-5109
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Timothy J. O'Connor O'Connor
& Auersch Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
Chandra K. Hein Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana
Antonio R. Whitfield appeals his conviction for level 5
felony burglary following a jury trial. He contends that the
trial court clearly erred in determining that he failed to
demonstrate that the State's peremptory challenge to a
venireperson was based on her race in violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Finding no error, we affirm.
and Procedural History
On February 10, 2018, around 5:00 a.m., David Marroquin heard
a loud noise outside his home and looked outside. He saw a
man wearing what looked like a ski mask entering the house
under construction next door, and he called 911. Police
officers arrived at the house and discovered that the
home's rear screen door was cut and partially opened, the
doorframe was damaged, and the interior door was partially
opened. Police and a canine unit entered the house and
announced their presence with no response. They found some
boxes near the back door, a crowbar near the stairs, and
Whitfield in the exposed rafters of the second floor.
Police arrested Whitfield and requested that the construction
superintendent report to the house. When he arrived, he told
police that he was the only person with a key to the house
and that he had locked up the house the previous evening
around 6:00 p.m. When he locked up, the screen door had been
intact, and the door frame had been undamaged. He also stated
that there had been three unopened boxes of mosaic title,
worth $500 to $600, by the front door, but those boxes were
now by the back door and one box had been partially opened.
Finally, he said that there had not been a crowbar in the
In February 2018, the State charged Whitfield with level 5
felony burglary, level 6 felony theft, and class B
misdemeanor criminal mischief. The State later moved to
dismiss the theft charge, which the trial court granted. In
addition, the State amended the charging information to
include a habitual offender enhancement.
On August 23, 2018, Whitfield's jury trial commenced.
During jury selection, fourteen members of the jury pool were
empaneled for questioning. L.M. was the sole African American
on the panel. On her juror questionnaire, L.M. wrote that she
was "[n]ot sure" that she could be a fair and
impartial juror in a criminal trial and explained that she
had "a low expectation of minorities receiving justice
in [the] American Court System." Appellant's Supp.
App. Vol. 2 at 3. She also wrote that she had family members
who had been arrested for or charged with a crime. During
voir dire, the trial court asked L.M. about the juror
questionnaire and whether she believed that minorities were
not always treated fairly by the system, and she answered,
"Yes." Tr. Vol. 2 at 37. The prosecutor asked L.M.
whether she could be fair and impartial today, and she said,
"Yes." Id. The prosecutor also asked her
whether, if the State presented evidence that firmly
convinced her of the defendant's guilt, she would be able
to find the defendant guilty, and she responded
affirmatively. Id. During defense counsel's voir
dire, L.M. indicated that she wanted to ask a question about
the meaning of reasonable doubt. Id. at 40-41. She
asked whether reasonable doubt meant that "there's
no doubt that somebody else had the same opportunity to
commit the crime that the person is accused of."
Id. at 41. Defense counsel explained that "if
you have reasonable doubt remaining that this person could
not have done the thing then you have to - you're
obligated to find him not guilty." Id. However,
L.M. indicated that defense counsel had not answered her
question. Id. Defense counsel later re-questioned
L.M. about the meaning of reasonable doubt. After some
discussion, she eventually said, "I guess if they can
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this person did this,
then, yes - … - I'd find him guilty."
Id. at 53-54 (defense counsel's one-word
During the first round of strikes, the State sought to
peremptorily strike L.M. Id. at 55. Whitfield raised
a Batson claim; that is, he objected that the
prosecution was using a peremptory strike to remove L.M. on
account of her race in violation of the Equal Protection
Clause of the United States Constitution. Id. The
trial court stated that a prima facie showing of racial
discrimination had been made given that L.M. was the only
minority on the fourteen-person panel. The trial court then
asked the State whether it wanted to make a record of its
reasons for its peremptory strike of L.M. In support of the
strike, the prosecutor said that there were "a handful
or reasons": (1) L.M. wrote on her juror questionnaire
that "basically she couldn't be fair and
impartial" and had "a low expectation of minorities
receiving justice in the court system[, ]" which
evidenced a bias against the State; (2) she also wrote that
she had family members who had been arrested for or charged
with a crime; (3) during voir dire, L.M. seemed "unclear
on her ability to be fair and impartial and seemed to waiver
[sic] significantly about whether she could find guilt even
if the elements were proven beyond a reasonable doubt";
(4) based on her interaction with the prosecutor, she did not
seem to want to be in court; (5) she did not seem to be
interactive with the prosecutor and was more interactive with
defense counsel; and (6) the prosecutor "didn't get
a good vibe from her based on what she was saying."
Id. at 55-57.
The trial court then asked whether defense counsel would like
to respond. Whitfield's counsel argued that it was unfair
to strike black persons for thinking that the court system
was unfair because they have a good reason to think that the
system is unfair, and if such a reason was accepted, then
black jurors would be disproportionately struck. Id.
at 57. Defense counsel also argued that L.M.'s body
language was no different than that of a white venireperson,
and in defense counsel's opinion, neither venireperson
demonstrated an unwillingness to be in court. Id. at
57-58. Further, defense counsel noted that L.M. answered that
she could be impartial and render a guilty verdict if the
State met its burden of proof. Id. at 58.
The trial ...