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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Gercie Brooks, individually and as personal representative of the heirs and estate of John B. Brooks Jr., deceased, appeal from a take-nothing judgment rendered against them in their suit against Armco Inc., seeking damages for the death of John B. Brooks Jr. Plaintiffs alleged that Brooks, who worked for Armco for 22 years, died from mesothelioma caused by his exposure to products containing asbestos while at Armco’s plant in Pasadena. Plaintiffs produced evidence that Brooks died from mesothelioma, but Armco produced medical evidence that Brooks died from adenocarcinoma, unrelated to asbestos exposure. The case was tried to a jury, which found against plaintiffs on all issues. HOLDING:Affirmed. Expressions indicating a bias that are equivocal at most are not absolute grounds for disqualification. And an initial leaning toward a particular view is not disqualifying if it represents skepticism or uncertainty rather than an unshakeable conviction. The prospective jurors in question simply stated what they thought the law ought to be on the burden of proof requirement, but when the trial court explained that it would instruct them as to the burden of proof required in this case, they indicated to counsel for both sides that they had no problem applying the burden of proof the court said they must use and that they would not try to apply any higher burden of proof. None indicated they could not or would not follow the law on the burden of proof as given to them by the trial court. The court should provide a party objecting to allegedly racially motivated challenges a reasonable opportunity to cross-examine opposing counsel about his reasons for striking panel members, but courts in Edmonson hearings (Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991)) should also take care to prevent unnecessary disruption in the trial courts. the trial court did not abuse his discretion in limiting plaintiffs’ cross-examination at the Edmonson hearing. Plaintiffs adequately explored defense counsel’s reasons for striking the panel members, as well as his reasons for not striking others. Moreover, when the trial court offered to give plaintiffs more time to continue the cross-examination the next day, their counsel refused. In an Edmonson hearing, the movant has a right to examine the voir dire notes of the opponent’s counsel only if that counsel relies on his notes to refresh his memory while giving testimony. Defense counsel here referred to his voir dire notes several times during his direct testimony and on cross-examination, but it appears he was only citing the notes to confirm the truth of his testimony, rather than using the notes to refresh his memory. Even if this constituted “use” of the notes to refresh his memory, the court believes it is immaterial because the trial court examined the notes in camera and verbally related their contents to plaintiffs’ counsel, who then used the references in his cross- examination. If there was any error in the way the trial court handled this matter, the court finds it was clearly harmless. Plaintiffs contend that allowing the extra peremptory challenge was error because it “rewarded” defendant for using race-based discrimination. The court distinguishes Peetz v. State, 180 SW.3d 755 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, no pet.). The evidence before the trial court in the Edmonson hearing could reasonably have been construed by the trial court as showing that the improperly struck juror was not excluded because of deliberate prejudice against African-Americans, but, rather, as the result of an error of judgment as to what properly constituted race-neutral reasons. Such a conclusion is buttressed by the fact that there were two other blacks on the panel in this case whom defense counsel made no attempt to strike, but who were readily accepted by the defense and served as jurors. OPINION:Cornelius, J.; Morriss, C.J., Ross and Cornelius, J.J.

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