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United States v. Hampton

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 4, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Bobby Joe Hampton Defendant-AppellantUnited States of America Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Bobby Joe Hampton Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: December 15, 2017

          Appeals from United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas - Texarkana

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, KELLY and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.\

          KELLY, Circuit Judge.

         In July 2015, a jury convicted Bobby Joe Hampton on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Hampton, an African-American man, appeals the district court's[1] partial denial of his challenge, under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), to the government's use of peremptory strikes against two African-American potential jurors. The government cross-appeals Hampton's sentence, arguing that it should have been enhanced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). We affirm in both appeals.[2]

         I. Background

         The morning of Hampton's trial, the district court clerk drew the names of 31 people to form a venire from which a twelve-member jury and one alternate juror would be selected. There were two African Americans in the venire, Juror 22 and Juror 45. After voir dire, the government tried to use two of its peremptory challenges to strike Juror 22 and Juror 45 from the venire. Hampton challenged the strikes under Batson.

         In response to Hampton's challenge, the government explained why it wanted to strike the jurors: "[T]hey had negative body language, arms crossed some of the time. Just not very responsive to us." The government described Juror 45's body language as "worse" than Juror 22's because "45 didn't say anything." The government also pointed to the fact that Juror 22 had participated in a bench conference. The district court explained that, during the bench conference, Juror 22 had merely disclosed that she was the plaintiff in a pending civil lawsuit. The government then again argued that Juror 22 had her "arms crossed basically the entire time, " and insisted that "body language speaks volumes." As to Juror 45, the government noted that she had not responded to questioning during voir dire, and claimed she had been unwilling to look at one of the government attorneys. In the government's view, Juror 45 was "clearly upset" when she was called to be on the venire, which showed she did not want to be on the jury. The government further explained that it would not have used a peremptory strike against a third African American who had appeared for jury duty that morning, but whose name was not drawn for the venire; and that it had used a peremptory challenge against another member of the venire who was not African-American but who was also non-responsive during voir dire. Finally, the government noted that a Hispanic man had been seated on the jury.

         The district court sustained Hampton's challenge as to Juror 22, explaining that the government should have asked the court about the bench conference had it caused concern. The district court indicated that, during the conference, Juror 22 had not given the court the impression she was trying to avoid jury service or said anything that would preclude her from sitting on the jury. The district court overruled the Batson challenge as to Juror 45 based on the government's body-language argument. Juror 22 was seated on the jury, and Juror 45 was excused. The jury thereafter convicted Hampton.

         The PSR recommended that Hampton be sentenced under the ACCA based, in part, on a 2006 Arkansas burglary conviction under Ark. Code Ann. § 5-39-201(a). The district court determined that Hampton's burglary conviction did not qualify as a violent felony, declined to enhance his sentence under the ACCA, and sentenced him to 87 months and 23 days in prison.

         II. Hampton's Batson Challenge

         The "Constitution forbids striking even a single prospective juror for a discriminatory purpose." Foster v. Chatman, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1747 (2016) (quoting Snyder v. Louisiana, 552 U.S. 472, 478 (2008)). The Supreme Court has provided a three-step process for determining whether a strike is discriminatory:

First, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that a peremptory challenge has been exercised on the basis of race; second, if that showing has been made, the prosecution must offer a race-neutral basis for striking the juror in question; and third, in light of the parties' submissions, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has shown purposeful discrimination.

Id. (quoting Snyder, 552 U.S. at 476-77). "We review Batson rulings for clear error, according great deference to the district court's findings, and 'keeping in mind that the ultimate burden of persuasion regarding racial motivation rests with, and never shifts from the party opposing the strike.'" United States v. House, 825 F.3d 381, 385 (8th Cir. ...


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