Case Caption: Ivan Chinnery v. People of the Virgin IslandsCase Number: S.Ct.Crim. No. 2009-0037Date: 05/27/2011Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

In a prosecution for unlawful sexual contact with a young female in violation of 14 V.I.C. § 1708(1), the defendant properly preserved the issue of his attempt to exercise a peremptory challenge during jury selection against a prospective white juror, and neither waived that request nor manifested acceptance of the Superior Court's ruling denying the strike. A prior request to strike the juror for cause was not a prerequisite to the peremptory challenge, and the burden to place necessary racial or demographic information in the record rested with the People, who made the argument against allowing exercise of this strike on discrimination grounds under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The Superior Court erred in barring defendant's peremptory strike in this case by its failure to consider the applicable factors and all relevant circumstances, immediately shifting the burden of proof to the defendant, who was attempting to exercise the challenge, and by summarily rejecting his proffered race neutral explanation for striking the prospective juror. The Superior Court's interference with defendant's exercise of the peremptory challenge requires reversal as a matter of due process because the ruling was based on that court's own personal preferences rather than a good-faith attempt to follow Batson, and was inherently arbitrary and irrational. However, the Superior Court did not err during the trial by admitting evidence of certain sexually-oriented prior statements of the defendant relating to the victim - made approximately one year prior to the events - not as "bad character" evidence but as "other acts" proof relevant to complete the narrative of the events of the crime and to explain the relationship of the parties in this case. The May 7, 2009 judgment of conviction is reversed and the case is remanded to the Superior Court for a new trial.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion