The WSJ Law Blog says:
Here’s a good one: What inquiry must a trial court undertake when a prosecutor cites “obesity” as the reason for using a peremptory challenge to strike the only African-American from the jury pool?
In the case, the prosecutor struck an overweight black juror, saying: “I do not select overweight people on the jury panel for reasons that, based on my reading and past experience, that heavy-set people tend to be very sympathetic toward any defendant.” The judge ruled: “I’m satisfied that is a race neutral explanation, so the strike stands.”
Here’s what the Second Circuit said, according to the entry:
[S]uch a conclusory statement does not necessarily indicate — even by inference — that the trial court credited the prosecution’s explanation, especially since (i) the judge’s words suggested that the proffer of a race-neutral explanation was itself enough, and (ii) the explanation given here lends itself to pretext. (Which side is favored by skinny jurors?) Defense counsel later pointed out that several overweight jurors had been seated without objection, but the trial court rejected that further attack on the prosecutor’s motives after visually assessing the jurors’ relative obesity.
Because the trial court failed to assess the credibility of the prosecution’s explanation, it follows that there was no adjudication of Dolphy’s Batson claim on the merits. . . .
I haven’t read the case and don’t have the time at the moment. Without reading the case, I can’t criticize it. However, based on that snippet, the holding seems odd; it sounds to me like the judge did accept the explanation as valid. Otherwise why talk about other jurors’ obesity relative to that of the stricken juror?
When/if I get a chance I’ll read the case and comment, but this sounds strange to me.