January 18, 2019
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Court, Judicial District of New London, Jongbloed, J.,
Appellate Court, Prescott, J.
Jay Black, Springfield, assigned counsel, for the appellant
J. Sugrue, Rocky Hill, assistant states attorney, with whom
were Paul J. Narducci, senior assistant states attorney,
and, on the brief, Michael L. Regan, New London, states
attorney, for the appellee (state).
C.J., and Palmer, McDonald, DAuria, Mullins, Kahn and Ecker,
Conn. 204] From its inception, the United States Supreme
Courts landmark decision in [334 Conn. 205] Batson v.
Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69
(1986), has been roundly criticized as ineffectual in
addressing the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges
during jury selection, largely because it fails to address
the effect of implicit bias or lines of voir dire questioning
with a disparate impact on minority jurors. Consistent
with these long-standing criticisms of Batson, the
defendant, Evan Jaron Holmes, asks us in this certified
appeal to overrule the line of cases in which
this court held that a prospective jurors negative views
about the police and the fairness of the criminal justice
system constitute a race neutral reason for the use of a
peremptory challenge to strike that juror. See, e.g.,
State v. King, 249 Conn. 645, 664-67, 735 A.2d 267
(1999). We conclude that the challenged line of cases, on
which the Appellate Court relied in upholding the defendants
conviction of felony murder on the basis of its rejection of
his Batson claim arising from the prosecutors use
of a peremptory challenge during jury selection; see
State v. Holmes, 176 Conn.App. 156, 175-77, 169 A.3d
264 (2017); remains consistent with the federal
constitutional case law that provides the sole basis for the
Batson claim. Accordingly, we affirm [334 Conn. 206]
the judgment of the Appellate Court in this case but refer
the systemic concerns about Batsons failure to
address the effects of implicit bias and disparate impact to
a Jury Selection Task Force, appointed by the Chief Justice,
to consider measures intended to promote the selection of
diverse jury panels in our states court-houses.
record and the Appellate Courts opinion reveal the following
relevant facts and procedural history. In connection with a
shooting at an apartment in New London, the state charged
the defendant with numerous offenses, including felony murder
in violation of General Statutes § 53a-54c, and the defendant
elected a jury trial. "On the first day of jury
selection, defense counsel noted that the entire venire panel
appeared to be white Caucasian and that every prospective
juror who had completed a jury questionnaire had indicated
that they were either white or Caucasian, or had not
indicated a race or ethnicity.
Conn. 207] "On the second day of jury selection, only
one prospective juror had indicated on the questionnaire that
he or she was African-American. During the voir dire
examination of one venireperson, W.T., he stated to defense
counsel that he was African-American. W.T. indicated that he
had obtained a masters degree in social work from the
University of Connecticut and currently was employed by the
state ... as a supervisory social worker with the Department
of Children and Families.
"He also disclosed that he performed volunteer work for
the Department of Correction and had worked directly with
inmates. When asked by defense counsel whether that work
might affect him as a juror, W.T. responded: Because I work
with, like I say, inmates, and also my work, I do— I
mean, you see a lot of different things and you see a lot of
situations. Im sure as a professional and because I work
with people whove been through a lot of stuff, you know, Im
sure I have an understanding of what theyre doing. And also,
just— just in the criminal justice system in general, I
know how sometimes people are not, you know, given a fair
trial or they [maybe] disproportionately have to go to jail
and different things of that nature. So, part of my whole
experience is as an African-American, as an American and also
studying these situations, I know that theres a lot of
issues [going] on in various systems. The criminal justice
system, the educational system and various systems, but
people are not fairly treated, so I know that much. But I
dont use that, you know, I can— I could make a
professional— and I think keep my composure and do my
job just like— as a professional, as I work— even
as I do volunteer work, but you have to know the reality in
life as well, though. In [334 Conn. 208] response to a
subsequent question by defense counsel regarding whether, in
light of his life experiences, he could be fair to both sides
in the case, W.T. stated that he could.
"During the states voir dire examination of W.T., the
following exchange occurred:
[The Prosecutor]: Now, youve obviously had a little more
dealing with the court systems than most— most people
that we see in through here. Have you formulated any opinions
about the criminal justice system based on your experiences?
Is it too lenient, too stringent, it works, it doesnt work;
any feeling about that?
[W.T.]: And like I said, probably already share[d] too much
stuff about— that talk about in terms of I have seen
people, have had family members [who] went to prison before.
[The Prosecutor]: Right.
[W.T.]: And I just think— I think thats why I became
a social worker, because I wanted to make a difference, and
thats why I have been doing mentoring programs—
[The Prosecutor]: Yep.
[W.T.]: — try[ing] to help young people so they wont
get into trouble. So, I meant the system, all various
systems, theres a lot of discrimination [that] still goes
out. Even today, ladies are still not getting equal pay. So,
its a lot. Weve come a long way, but we have a long way to
[The Prosecutor]: Right.
[W.T.]: But I think I can make— I could keep the facts
and be able to look at the facts of the case and judge by the
[The Prosecutor]: ... We need to know how youre feeling, so
we can make the appropriate assessment [334 Conn. 209] and
you can make the appropriate assessment.... I think that its
not a perfect system, but its improving every day, and
[there are] not as many systems that I can think of that are,
any— come anywhere close. One of the concerns that
people may have is, jurors who are in the— using their
time as a juror to try to fix the system. You indicated, and
I think you said, that you would listen to the evidence and
decide it on the evidence and you wouldnt let any concerns
that you had filter in.
[W.T.]: Thats correct.
[The Prosecutor]: Fair to say?
[W.T.]: Thats correct.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. And so ... you would sit and listen
to what all the evidence is and make a decision based on the
[W.T.]: Thats correct....
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. With respect to that, as much as you
know about those situations, were you satisfied with the way
the police reacted to your family ... or friend being the
victim of a crime?
[W.T.]: Sometimes and sometimes not.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay.
[The Prosecutor]: Fair to say that its an individual
situation and that the police have been— have acted in
a way that was satisfactory toward your family members or
friends, and in other situations they werent satisfied with
what the police did?
[W.T.]: Thats correct.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. Had you had any interactions with
the police in any respect in which you developed [334 Conn.
210] an— either a strong, favorable impression or an
unfavorable impression about the police and the way they
treated you in any situation, speeding tickets, calling up to
complain about [a] noisy neighbor, something with work?
[W.T.]: Im, like— just growing up in this society, I
fear, you know, I fear [for] my life. I got a new car, I
feared that, you know, I might get stopped, you know, for
being black, you know. So, you know, thats concerning and
sometimes I get afraid— even me, you know, I—
when I see the police in back of me, I wonder, you know, if
Im going to be stopped.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. Now with— with respect to
that, there will probably be police officers who will be
testifying here, and the judge will tell you that [you] cant
give a police officer more credibility merely because [he or
she is] a police officer. Conversely, though, they dont get
less credibility merely [because] they are police officers.
They are to be treated like anybody else. Would you have any
difficulty following the judges instructions concerning
[W.T.]: No, I wouldnt.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. And I can appreciate what youre
saying. Obviously, I havent been in that— in your
shoes. I havent been in your situation, nor do we ask the
jury to put themselves in the shoes of either the police or a
particular defendant. We cant ask you to do that. But having
now lifes experience, is that something that you think you
can put aside and decide the evidence based on everything
thats presented to you, or is there some concern that you
might have that you might not be able to do that?
[W.T.]: No, I will be able to because another thing, too,
is, I know good police officers who are— who are [334
Conn. 211] good people, nice people, mentors who work in the
community. So— so, yes, Id be able to.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. Okay. And have you had ... positive
experiences with the police as well?
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. So, I guess like anybody else, there
are bad lawyers and there are good lawyers. There are bad
social workers, there are good social workers.... But what
Im driving at is, we make an individual assessment based on
what we hear and what we see and what we listen to. And that
is what were going to ask you to do if youre a juror.
[The Prosecutor]: We want to make sure you dont carry in
any preconceived notions one way or the other.
[The Prosecutor]: No problems with that?
[W.T.]: No problem.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. We can count on your word on that,
[W.T.]: Thats right.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. I asked about being the victim of a
crime and your family member. The flip side to that, have
you, any member of your family or any close personal friends
ever been either accused or ever convicted of crimes?
[W.T.]: Yes. I have family members whove been in— who
served time in jail.
[The Prosecutor]: Okay. This obviously is a crime of
violence. Any— any family members who have been
convicted of crimes of violence?
Conn. 212] " [W.T.]: No....
[The Prosecutor]: You mentioned that your family members
have— have served time. With respect to that,
were— did you develop any feelings about the way the
police had treated your family members in those situations?
[W.T.]: Well, I think the— like I told you earlier, my