Friday, August 27, 2010

Mitcham v. Cullen

This is a prisoner petition for habeas corpus that has languished for over a decade. In it's current formulation, Stephen Louis Mitcham complains that his trial attorney was ineffective because the prosecutor excluded all African-Americans from the jury pool in violation of his right to equal protection of the laws as explained in Batson v. Kentucky.

In felony criminal cases, the criminal defendant has a right to a jury trial. Every state goes about it a little differently, but basically, all the registered voters (or drivers) in an area are put on a list and then people are taken off that list and scheduled for jury duty. Those people are put in a room in the courthouse and attorneys for each side ask questions to determine if the people in the jury pool have any outstanding prejudice which may affect how they decide the case. A juror can be excluded from the trial jury by means of a peremptory challenge for almost any reason except race and gender.

Here, Judge Vaughn Walker is not interested in the Batson argument because Mr. Mitcham failed to raise it at trial or the ineffective assistance of counsel aspect of it on direct appeal.

Indeed, failure timely to object to the use of peremptory challenges at trial makes appellate, and a fortiori, collateral review of a Batson claim difficult, if not impossible.
Judge Walker denied Mr. Mitcham's petition for habeas corpus.

No comments:

Post a Comment