I had to do a double take when I read this sentence in the opening paragraph of the slip opinion in Ricky Adkins v. Warden, Holman CF, No. 11-12380: “Because we determine that Mr. Adkins is entitled to habeas relief based on his Batson claim, we do not decide his other claims.” I’ll warn you now, the opinion is quite long, 53 pages, but that’s including Judge Tjoflat’s 18 page dissent. The bulk of the opinion is devoted to a discussion of the prosecutor’s repeated striking of African American venire members in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). If your a criminal defense attorney with a trial coming up soon, this may be a good time to brush up on Batson issues.
Since criminal defense and criminal appeals attorneys know that it’s so rare that the Eleventh ever grants habeas relief, you might wonder what was different about this case. Well, for starters, the 3-judge panel consisted of Judges Barkett, Tjoflat, and Martin. Luckily for Ricky Adkins, Judges Barkett and Martin were in the majority. Second, there were some pretty compelling facts in the record that really favored Ricky Adkins, and which showed that the trial court failed to properly consider all the relevant circumstances, as required in the third step of the Batson analysis. The Court noted the circumstances that the trial court failed to consider: (1) the strength of Mr. Adkins’s prima facie case of purposeful discrimination; (2) the fact that the prosecution explicitly noted the race of every black veniremember (and only black veniremembers) on the jury list the state relied on in jury selection; (3) the fact that specific proffered reasons provided by the prosecutor were incorrect and/or contradicted by the record; (4) the fact that the trial court relied upon, and did not subject to adversarial testing, an affidavit from the prosecutor that was submitted after the Batson hearing; and (5) the fact that the trial court relied upon facts not part of the record, such as the trial court’s personal experience with the prosecutor in unrelated matters. See Adkins, slip op., pgs. 21-22.
Now that Adkins’ petition has been granted, what’s the relief? The State of Alabama gets to retry him!
Up next, the Eleventh Circuit slaps down Florida Governor Rick Scott’s controversial drug testing plan for welfare recipients . . .You can read the article from the Sun Sentinel here.