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People v. Black

Supreme Court of California

March 27, 2014

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
CHARLES ALEX BLACK Defendant and Appellant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Superior Court of Alameda County, No. C163496, Allan D. Hymer, Judge. Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One, No. A131693.

Robert L.S. Angres, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Assistant Attorney General, René A. Chacón and Bruce Ortega, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Opinion by Chin, J., with Cantil-Sakauye, C. J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Corrigan, and Liu, JJ., concurring. Concurring Opinion by Liu, J., with Kennard, J., concurring.


[169 Cal.Rptr.3d 365] [320 P.3d 801] CHIN, J.

During voir dire, the trial court denied defendant's challenges to two prospective jurors on incompetence grounds (i.e., grounds that rendered them removable for cause). Following those denials, defendant used two of his allotted peremptory challenges to remove the same jurors. Defendant ultimately exhausted his peremptory challenges. He then asked the trial court to grant him extra peremptory challenges to remove two other prospective jurors he deemed objectionable (i.e., jurors removable for lawful reasons other than for cause). The trial court refused defendant's request. He now challenges the trial court's action here, claiming he is entitled [320 P.3d 802] to reversal because one of the jurors he objected to sat on his case.

We find that defendant cured any error that occurred when the trial court denied his for-cause challenges because he removed those jurors with two peremptory challenges. We also conclude that the trial court was under no statutory obligation to grant defendant extra peremptory challenges to remove additional, otherwise competent, jurors. Because no incompetent juror who should have been dismissed for cause sat on his case as a result of his exhausting his peremptory challenges, defendant is not entitled to reversal of the trial court's judgment. (See People v. Yeoman (2003) 31 Cal.4th 93 [2 Cal.Rptr.3d 186, 72 P.3d 1166] ( Yeoman ).) We thus affirm the Court of Appeal's judgment.

Facts and Procedural History

Defendant was charged by information with two counts of animal cruelty (Pen. Code, § 597, subd. (a)) after his neighbors videotaped him severely

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beating his pet pit bull, Blue, with a mop handle on June 30, 2009, and with an axe on February 19, 2009. During jury voir dire at defendant's trial, Prospective Juror M.P. indicated she was " a very devout Hindu," and was " taught to not harm any animals whatsoever." Although she stated that she would " try" to set aside her beliefs, when asked if she could be " completely impartial, unbiased," she replied, " [p]robably not for this particular case." Prospective Juror A.D. indicated he had been abused as a child and was concerned about his ability to act impartially. In chambers, he told the court he " already sided" with the prosecution " because of what happened today in the morning and at lunch." Asked to explain, he said defendant had been disrespectful by arriving late and " singing and stomping his feet" when he entered. The court denied defense counsel's challenges for cause to the two prospective jurors, and defense counsel had to use two of his 10 allotted peremptory challenges to remove [169 Cal.Rptr.3d 366] them. (See Code Civ. Proc., [1] § 231, subd. (a) [allotting both noncapital defendants and the prosecution 10 peremptory challenges per trial].)

A third prospective juror who was later seated--Juror No. 8--expressed concern in a note to the court. In chambers, he explained he was a process server who earlier that year had tried to serve an unlawful detainer summons on a " Charles Black" at an Oakland Housing Authority building. However, because that Charles Black was never at home, Juror No. 8 did not know if he was the same person as defendant. He had served residents of the Oakland Housing Authority over 100 times, but he remembered this attempt because he had a police escort, which only occurred if " guns and/or drugs were involved in the reason for the eviction." Juror No. 8 said he would " try" not to let the incident affect his consideration of the case. He promised not to disclose it to the other jurors. The court denied defense counsel's initial request, made " in an abundance of caution," to excuse the juror for cause. [2] Having earlier exhausted his peremptory challenges, defense counsel requested two additional peremptory challenges to replace the challenges he had used in excusing Prospective Jurors M.P. and A.D., so that he might remove Juror No. 8 and another unspecified juror whom defendant does not discuss in his briefs. In denying defense counsel's request, the court specifically noted that Juror No. 8 was " conscientious."

The jury found defendant guilty of both animal cruelty counts, and in a bifurcated proceeding found a prior strike and prior prison term allegations true. The court sentenced defendant to four years: the 16-month lower term

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on the first count, and eight months on the second count (one-third the midterm), both doubled due to the prior strike. The court struck ...

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