Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the opinion.
Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court
Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
State v. Short, No. W2022-01608-CCA-R3-CD, p. 3-4 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 31, 2023).
In making its determination,
The trial [court] must carefully articulate specific reasons for each finding on the record, i.e., whether a prima facie case has been established; whether a neutral explanation has been given; and whether the totality of the circumstances support a finding of purposeful discrimination. The trial court’s factual findings are imperative in this context. On appeal, the trial court’s findings are to be accorded great deference and not set aside unless clearly erroneous.
Woodson, 916 S.W.2d at 906; see State v. Hugueley, 185 S.W.3d 356, 374 (Tenn. 2006).
State v. Mobley, No. E2022-00440-CCA-R3-CD, p. 11 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. April 17, 2023).
On appeal, a trial court’s ruling on the issue of discriminatory intent must be sustained unless it is clearly erroneous. See Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 369 (1991) (plurality opinion). The trial court has a pivotal role in evaluating Batson claims. Step three of the Batson inquiry involves an evaluation of the prosecutor’s credibility, see 476 U.S., at 98, n.21, “the best evidence [of discriminatory intent] often will be the demeanor of the attorney who exercises the challenge,” Hernandez, 500 U.S., at 365 (plurality opinion); State v. Ellison, 841 S.W.2d 824, 827 (Tenn. 1992) (quoting Batson, 476 U.S. at 98 n.21). Both this Court and the United States Supreme Court have previously recognized that “‘[t]here will seldom be much evidence bearing on th[e] issue [of discriminatory intent], and the best evidence often will be the demeanor of the attorney who exercises the challenge.’” Id. (quoting Hernandez, 500 U.S. 352, 365). We remain cognizant of Batson’s holding that the ultimate burden of establishing purposeful discrimination lies with the party objecting to the peremptory challenge. 476 U.S. at 93; see also Purkett, 514 U.S. at 768 (recognizing that “the ultimate burden of persuasion regarding racial motivation rests with, and never shifts from, the opponent of the strike”).
State v. Roosevelt, No. M2022-00581-CCA-R3-CD, p. 5 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 5, 2023).
“On appeal, the trial court’s findings are to be accorded great deference and not set aside unless clearly erroneous.” Woodson, 916 S.W.2d at 906; see Foster, 136 S. Ct. at 1747 (noting that the third step in Batson “turns on factual determinations,” and that “‘in the absence of exceptional circumstances,’ we defer to state court factual findings unless we conclude that they are clearly erroneous.” (citation omitted)). “Deference [to the trial court’s findings on the issue of discriminatory intent] is necessary because a reviewing court, which analyzes only the transcripts from voir dire, is not as well positioned as the trial court is to make credibility determinations.” Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 339.
State of Tennessee v. Donaldson, No. E2020-01561-CCA-R3-CD, p. 14 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 21, 2022).
On appeal, the reviewing court is “highly deferential” to “the trial court’s factual determinations in a Batson hearing,” which “largely will turn on evaluation of credibility.” Id. (citation omitted). “[A] trial court’s ruling on the issue of discriminatory intent must be sustained unless it is clearly erroneous.” Id. at 2244 (citation omitted).
State of Tennessee v. Bird, No. M2021-00372-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 19, 2022).
Upon review, we conclude that the trial court was not clearly erroneous in its finding that the Defendant failed to show purposeful discrimination. See Woodson, 916 S.W.2d at 906; Hugueley, 185 S.W.3d at 374; see United States v. Forrest, 402 F.2d 678, 687 (6th Cir. 2005) (holding that a prospective juror’s history of criminal charges and demeanor provided a sufficient explanation to rebut prima facie claim of racial discrimination).