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May 12, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Christy Berkos, Judge Presiding.

Cahill, Johnson, Hoffman

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cahill

PRESIDING JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the opinion of the court:

We consider whether the State's race neutral explanations for the exercise of its peremptory challenges in the trial below rebutted a prima facie case of racial discrimination. See Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712.

Williams stands convicted of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) and attempted murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 8-4, 9-1(a)). In People v. Williams (1990), 199 Ill. App. 3d 549, 557 N.E.2d 410, 145 Ill. Dec. 640, we reviewed this case for the first time and held that Williams established a prima facie case of discrimination when the State exercised eight of nine peremptory challenges against blacks. We remanded to allow the State to offer race neutral explanations for its peremptory challenges. The State offered reasons that touched upon the age, marital status, employment, and demeanor of the blacks excused. The trial court found the State's explanations sufficient to rebut the prima facie case. Williams now argues that the State's explanations for seven of the venire members were pretextual and inconsistently applied. We disagree and affirm.

A trial court's finding that the State excused black venire members for race neutral reasons will not be reversed on review unless it is clearly erroneous. ( People v. Andrews (1993), 155 Ill. 2d 286, 293-94, 614 N.E.2d 1184, 1189, 185 Ill. Dec. 499.) In Andrews our supreme court also held that, when the State gives more than one reason for excusing a venire member, the reviewing court need only accept one of the reasons. Andrews, 155 Ill. 2d 286, 614 N.E.2d 1184, 185 Ill. Dec. 499.

The State excused Tyrone Robinson and Patrick Smith because they were young and single. The State explained that it wanted older, mature males as jurors. Robinson and Smith were 22 years old. The State may challenge potential jurors based on their youth under the assumption that older jurors are more responsible. ( People v. Kindelan (1991), 213 Ill. App. 3d 548, 556, 572 N.E.2d 1138, 1143, 157 Ill. Dec. 674; People v. Taylor (1988), 171 Ill. App. 3d 261, 269, 524 N.E.2d 1216, 1221, 121 Ill. Dec. 168.) Also, the State's opinion that Robinson and Smith lacked maturity and responsibility was not inconsistently applied. The youngest male impaneled was 28 and married.

The State excused Robert Irby because he was divorced. The State explained that a divorced male juror might sympathize with the defendant who, in addition to murder, was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault. Williams argues that the State's explanation was pretextual because it accepted two white, unmarried males, but he fails to note that neither had been divorced. There were no divorced males on the jury, so the State's exclusion of Irby is consistent with its explanation.

The State excused Marsha Wheeler because she appeared timid and frightened. The State explained that her demeanor showed that she might be afraid to sign a guilty verdict. Hesitant or timid demeanor is a legitimate, racially neutral reason to challenge a potential juror. ( People v. Hooper (1989), 133 Ill. 2d 469, 509, 552 N.E.2d 684, 701, 142 Ill. Dec. 93.) The record supports the State's impression of Wheeler's demeanor. On voir dire the court asked Wheeler, "Does itscare you, you look like you were frightened, it doesn't bother you?" (Emphasis added.) Although she answered, "No," the trial court's question suggested that he shared the State's concern, and since the court was in the best position to observe her behavior, the finding that the State's explanation was race neutral is not clearly erroneous. See People v. Baisten (1990), 203 Ill. App. 3d 64, 560 N.E.2d 1060, 148 Ill. Dec. 463.

The State excused Hattie Smith because it believed she held a grudge against the court system and might not sign a guilty verdict. On voir dire when Smith stated that her aunt was the victim of a crime, the court asked:

"Q. Was that case handled fairly as far as you were concerned by the courts?

A. [Smith]: Well I have to say no."

Q. You did not like the way it ...

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