BOBBY LEE ALLEN A/K/A BOBBY LEE ALLEN, JR. A/K/A BOBBY ALLEN A/K/A BOBBY ALLEN, JR. APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 05/02/2013
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY:
GEORGE T. HOLMES
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: MICHAEL GUEST
GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.
In this appeal, Bobby Lee Allen asserts that the Madison
County Circuit Court erred when it sustained the State's
objections to his peremptory strikes of two potential jurors.
He also challenges the sufficiency of evidence to convict him
of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Upon
review, we find no error and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On April 30, 2012, Allen and two other males drove to an
apartment complex in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Allen, the
driver of the vehicle, waited in the car as the other two men
robbed and shot Jose Gurrola Ortiz. When the men returned to
the vehicle, Allen drove away from the scene. Allen was
indicted for armed robbery, accessory after the fact to
murder, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, in violation
of Mississippi Code Annotated sections 97-3-79, 97-1-5, and
97-1-1 (Rev. 2014).
During the investigation phase, Allen provided multiple
statements to the detectives. He confessed to driving the men
to the location, and he admitted that he heard the gunshot.
But Allen claimed to have no prior knowledge of the robbery
plot. He told investigators that one of the men offered him
gas money in exchange for a ride to a girl's home. Allen
provided specific details about the crimes and admitted that
he split the money with the men. Allen was arrested after he
provided his final statement.
During jury-selection proceedings, the State challenged
Allen's six peremptory strikes against Caucasian males.
The State claimed the strikes were racially motivated and
improperly based on gender. Allen took issue with two jurors
in particular and argued that both of the potential jurors
displayed disinterested mannerisms or body language. The
circuit judge found that Allen's explanations were
insufficient and neither race- nor gender-neutral.
After a two-day trial, Allen was convicted on all counts. On
May 2, 2013, he was sentenced to concurrent sentences of
forty years. On appeal, counsel for Allen argues that the
circuit court erred when it overruled the peremptory strikes.
Allen, in a supplemental pro se brief, argues that the
evidence was insufficient to convict him of Count I, armed
robbery, and Count III, conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Allen does not appeal the sufficiency of the evidence as to
Count II, accessory after the fact to murder.
Allen argues that the circuit court erred when it overruled
his peremptory strikes as race- and gender-biased. He
challenges the circuit court's determination that body
language is not a neutral justification. Allen asserts that
the Mississippi Supreme Court has recognized that body
language and demeanor are in fact race- and gender-neutral
reasons to exercise a peremptory strike. Allen further
contends that he justified the strikes when he explained that
both men appeared disinterested and predisposed to the notion
that he was guilty. Finally, Allen concludes that the trial
court's decision was erroneous because the record
provides no evidence of inherent discrimination. Thus, he
claims he is entitled to a new trial on all counts of
"The trial judge acts as finder of fact when a
Batson issue arises." Avant v. State,
910 So.2d 695, 698 (¶11) (Miss. Ct. App. 2005) (citation
omitted). "This Court gives great deference to the trial
court's findings of whether or not a peremptory challenge
was race-neutral." Anthony v. State, 108 So.3d
419, 424 (¶18) (Miss. Ct. App. 2012) (reversed on other
grounds). "[W]e will not overrule a trial court on a
Batson ruling unless the record indicates that the
ruling was clearly erroneous or against the overwhelming
weight of the evidence." Id.
During voir dire, Allen attempted to strike six jurors, and
the State objected on the basis that all of the strikes were
against Caucasian males. The circuit court reviewed the
peremptory challenges and asked Allen to provide race- and
gender-neutral reasons for the strikes. Allen offered several
reasons, and the State conceded four of the strikes. For the
remaining two potential jurors, the following exchange took
Court: So it does appear that all six of the challenges
exercised by the Defense was against white males. There was
one white male that was accepted. However, . . . I do think
that that shows a pattern in that all of the six challenges
were utilized against white males so that I will ask the
Defense to give me a race-neutral reason for the strike as to
Juror Number 3.
. . . .
Defense: Your Honor, I believe it was this particular one
that was more or less the mannerism and just that individual
just showed a general disinterest in what was going on, in my
Court: What says the State?
Prosecutor: Your Honor, we would say that it requires more
than that. Under the case law, under body language, you know,
under Canon, it's arms folded; under
Manning, it's arms folded; under
Walters, rolled eyes. I'm not ...