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The People v. Sergio Salinas

December 14, 2010


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Tulare County. Joseph A. Kalashian, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. VCF214633)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Levy, Acting P.J.

P. v. Salinas



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.


On May 28, 2009, a jury convicted appellant Sergio Salinas, Jr., of evading an officer with willful or wanton disregard for safety (Veh. Code, § 2800.2, subd. (a); count 1). Appellant then pleaded no contest to driving with a suspended license (id., § 14601.2, subd. (a); count 2), and admitted having served a prior prison term (Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b)). Sentenced to a total of three years in prison and ordered to pay various fees and fines, he now appeals and raises various claims of error. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm.


Late at night on August 23, 2008, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop on a vehicle that had red lights on its front hood and rearview mirror.*fn1 Instead of pulling over, the driver, who was subsequently identified as appellant, sped off, precipitating a pursuit in which the vehicle reached a speed of 100 miles per hour, traveled through intersections without heeding stop signs, and drove on the wrong side of the road for approximately three-quarters of a mile.




Appellant, who is Hispanic, challenges the trial court's denial of his two Batson-Wheeler*fn2 motions, which were brought as a result of the prosecutor's peremptory excusals of four prospective jurors who were Hispanic or at least Spanish-surnamed. Hispanics are a cognizable group for purposes of Batson-Wheeler analysis. (People v. Trevino (1985) 39 Cal.3d 667, 686, disapproved on another ground in People v. Johnson (1989) 47 Cal.3d 1194, 1221.) Spanish-surnamed prospective jurors are included in the cognizable Hispanic group, at least when no one knows at the time of the challenge whether the prospective juror is Hispanic. (People v. Davis (2009) 46 Cal.4th 539, 584; People v. Cruz (2008) 44 Cal.4th 636, 656-657; see People v. Silva (2001) 25 Cal.4th 345, 384; People v. Trevino, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 686.)

"The purpose of peremptory challenges is to allow a party to exclude prospective jurors who the party believes may be consciously or unconsciously biased against him or her." (People v. Jackson (1992) 10 Cal.App.4th 13, 17.) Peremptory challenges may properly be used to remove prospective jurors believed to entertain specific bias, i.e., bias regarding the particular case on trial or the parties or witnesses thereto. (Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal.3d at p. 274.) However, "'[a] prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors on the basis of group bias -- that is, bias against "members of an identifiable group distinguished on racial, religious, ethnic, or similar grounds" -- violates the right of a criminal defendant to trial by a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under article I, section 16 of the California Constitution. [Citations.] Such a practice also violates the defendant's right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [Citations.]' [Citation.]" (People v. Bell (2007) 40 Cal.4th 582, 596; see Batson, supra, 476 U.S. at pp. 88-89; Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal.3d at pp. 276-277.)

"There is a rebuttable presumption that a peremptory challenge is being exercised properly, and the burden is on the opposing party to demonstrate impermissible discrimination. [Citations.]" (People v. Bonilla (2007) 41 Cal.4th 313, 341.)

"[¶] The United States Supreme Court has ... reaffirmed that Batson states the procedure and standard to be used by trial courts when motions challenging peremptory strikes are made. 'First, the defendant must make out a prima facie case "by showing that the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose." [Citations.] Second, once the defendant has made out a prima facie case, the "burden shifts to the State to explain adequately the racial exclusion" by offering permissible race-neutral justifications for the strikes. [Citations.] Third, "[i]f a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must then decide ... whether the opponent of the strike has proved purposeful racial discrimination." [Citation.]' [Citation.]" (People v. Avila (2006) 38 Cal.4th 491, 541, quoting Johnson v. California (2005) 545 U.S. 162, 168.)

The California Supreme Court has "endorsed the same three-part structure of proof for state constitutional claims. [Citations.]" (People v. Bell, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 596; Wheeler, supra, 22 Cal.3d at pp. 280-282.)

With these principles in mind, we turn to the case before us.

A. Factual Background

Prospective Jurors J.H., A.N., and F.L. were among the first 18 individuals examined during voir dire. Each prospective juror was asked to state, inter alia, his or her occupation; whether he or she had ever been involved in a criminal case or been charged with a crime, the victim of a crime, or a witness to a crime; whether he or she had any legal or medical training; whether he or she had ever been involved in law enforcement; and whether he or she had any close friends or relatives in law enforcement.

In pertinent part, F.L. related that he was a bartender, real estate agent, and student; was charged with driving under the influence (DUI) about a year earlier, but had no other criminal charges; and had cousins who were prison correctional officers, but they were not close cousins and he was not sure who they were or where they worked. A.N. related that she was a medical assistant with some medical training, and had a brother who had been convicted of a felony. J.H. related that she was a customer service assistant; had "tons of family and criminal cases," although she herself had never been involved in any criminal act; had some paralegal training; and had several friends working in corrections and as police officers.

The prosecutor excused A.N. with his first peremptory challenge. He excused J.H. with his third peremptory challenge, at which point defense counsel asked to make a motion. Outside the prospective jurors' presence, the following colloquy occurred:

"MR. RENDAHL [defense counsel]: At this point I would move to disqualify the jury panel based on the District Attorney's systematic exclusion of Hispanic jurors. They're minimal number to start with, and the two or three exclusions have been Hispanic of nature, where nothing that I could see significant about either one....

"THE COURT: I'll find a prima facie case for that. So you need to explain why you excused each of them.

"MR. MYER [prosecutor]: As to [J.H.], I believe her statement was she had tons of family in criminal cases, ... I ... felt that her response ... makes her potentially biased ...

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