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Wolfe v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 15, 2017

DEMARCO WOLFE A/K/A DEMARICO WOLF A/K/A DEMARCO ANTWAN WOLFE A/K/A DEMARCO ANTWON WOLFE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/17/2016

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. JEFF WEILL SR. TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ALICIA MARIE AINSWORTH

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ROBERT SHULER SMITH

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. Demarco Wolfe was convicted of aggravated assault, carjacking, and armed robbery. He was sentenced to serve concurrent terms of twenty, thirty, and thirty-five years. On direct appeal, Wolfe argues that the State impermissibly sought to exclude African American males from the jury in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         ¶2. During jury selection for Wolfe's trial, the State used two of its peremptory strikes on African American males. A third African American male was not struck and was selected to be an alternate juror. Those three individuals were the only African American males on the two panels of the venire. The two African American males struck had more than a thirty-year age difference between them. Several African American females served on the jury.[1]Wolfe's counsel raised a Batson challenge, asserting that the State was deliberately acting to prevent African American males from serving on the jury.

         ¶3. The State asserted as its race-neutral reason for its peremptory strikes that those two individuals were inattentive and unengaged with the proceedings, even though they were sitting in front of the prosecutor. The State also noted that one of the individuals had indicated on his jury questionnaire that he had been a juror before on a criminal trial, yet failed to respond to the same question asked verbally to the venire. The defense rebutted that "the State believes that because they were African American males, . . . [the State] think[s] that probably . . . they will empathize with the defendant."

         ¶4. The trial court held that Wolfe did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination and denied the Batson challenge.[2] The court noted that one of the three African American males was not struck and was seated as an alternate, and that "there are a number of jurors, a very large number of African American females, that were accepted by the State without challenge." The case proceeded to a jury trial, and Wolfe was convicted.

         ¶5. On direct appeal, the only issue Wolfe raises is the trial ...


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