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Saintcalle v. Uttecht

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

January 16, 2018



          Barbara Jacobs Rothstein U.S. District Court Judge


         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler (ECF No. 31), which recommends that Petitioner's habeas petition (ECF No. 23) be DENIED, a certificate of appealability (“COA”) be GRANTED, and Petitioner's action be dismissed with prejudice. After reviewing the R&R, Petitioner's Objections, Respondent's Response to Petitioner's Objections, and the record, the Court ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Theiler's R&R.


         Kirk Saintcalle (“Petitioner”) filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 23.) Petitioner, an African-American man, challenges his state court convictions on the grounds that, under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), the peremptory strike of the only African-American venire member violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. See State v. Saintcalle, 178 Wash.2d 34, 35 (2013).

         On October 16, 2009, Petitioner was sentenced to 579 months in prison after being convicted of one count of first degree felony murder and three counts of second degree assault. (ECF No. 23.) “[He] was accused of entering an apartment in the city of Auburn with two companions, holding three people at gunpoint, and shooting and killing Anthony Johnson.” Saintcalle, 178 Wash.2d at 36. On direct appeal, the Washington Supreme Court provided the following summary of facts relevant to Petitioner's Batson claim:

¶5 During jury selection at Saintcalle's trial, the prosecution used a peremptory challenge to strike the only black juror in the venire, juror 34, Anna Tolson. This challenge came after the prosecution questioned juror 34 extensively during voir dire-far more extensively than any other juror. Indeed, most of the prosecution's interactions with jurors were quite brief, usually consisting of only a few short questions, but not the interaction with juror 34. The State began questioning juror 34 after another juror made a comment about race:
[JUROR 72]: I feel there are some areas of unfairness in our system. I am aware, for example, that a jury of their peers [sic], yet as you look around this panel, all of the faces are white.
[JUROR 34]: No, not quite.
[PROSECUTOR]: You know what, you kind of bring a very important topic to light. If you were seated here in this chair and you looked out at this panel, would you have any concern about whether or not people are going to be able to relate to you or listen to you or feel for you? Juror number-What is your number? Juror number 34, I am going to ask you a little bit about your background. You work at the YMCA?
[JUROR 34]: I work in a middle school.
[PROSECUTOR]: So tell me how that works. So you are a counselor?
[PROSECUTOR]: Which means you see a whole lot.
[JUROR 34]: Yes.
[PROSECUTOR]: And where do you work? What school do you work in?
[JUROR 34]: Do I really need to say that?
[PROSECUTOR]: How about you just tell me the city. Is it an inner city school?
[JUROR 34]: Yes.
[PROSECUTOR]: You see a whole lot?
[JUROR 34]: Yes.
[PROSECUTOR]: I am interested to hear from you-I mean, do you have impressions about the criminal justice system?
[JUROR 34]: Yes.
[PROSECUTOR]: You are not going to hurt my feelings if you talk about them a little bit. What are your thoughts?
[JUROR 34]: Gosh, I feel like I am on the spot here.
But being a person of color, I have a lot of thoughts about the criminal system. I see-I have seen firsthand-and a couple people have already mentioned that if you have money, you tend to seem to work the system and get over. And regardless if you are innocent or guilty, if you want to be innocent, your money says you are innocent.
And a person of color, even if you do have an affluent lawyer who has the background, the finance to get you off, because you are a person of color, a lot of times you are not going to get that same kind of opportunities.
And especially with this person being a person of color and being a male, I am concerned about, you know, the different stereotypes. Even if we haven't heard anything about this case, we watch the news every night. We see how people of color, especially young men, are portrayed in the news. We never hardly ever see anyone of color doing something positive, doing something good in their community.
So kind of like what the person behind me is saying, since most of the people in this room are white, I am wondering what's running through their mind as they see this young man sitting up here.
[PROSECUTOR]: Right. How about for you, do you think-I mean, you've got a whole lot that you are feeling as you sit here and that you are going to be asked to sit in judgment of somebody. How do you think you are going to be able to handle that?
[JUROR 34]: I think number one, because I am a Christian, I know I can listen to the facts and, you know, follow the judge's instruction. But also it's kind of hard, and I haven't mentioned this before because none of those questions have come up for me to answer, but I lost a friend two weeks ago to a murder, so it's kind of difficult sitting here. Even though I don't know the facts of this particular case, and I would like to think that I can be fair because I am a Christian, I did lose someone two weeks ago.
[PROSECUTOR]: Was that in Seattle?
[JUROR 34]: Yes.
[PROSECUTOR]: Was that [the] Tyrone ...

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