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SAN JOSE � The California Supreme Court on Monday remanded a case regarding racial bias in jury selection back to the trial court, where prosecutors will be asked to explain their challenges in a murder case tried more than seven years ago. This wasn’t exactly what Oakland defense attorney Stephen Bedrick was hoping for. However, he remains confident that the ultimate outcome will be a new trial for his client. Bedrick had argued his client’s conviction should be reversed and the case retired. The case had been sent back by the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling its state counterpart had erred and made it too difficult for defendants to make claims of racial bias in jury selection. But in its opinion to simply remand the matter � instead of reversing the conviction � the state Supreme Court did little more than “keep my client in the slammer,” Bedrick said Monday. In 1998, Jay Johnson, a black man, was convicted by an all-white jury of second-degree murder in the death of a 19-month-old white child. The First District Court of Appeal in 2001 ruled the trial court had erred in failing to find a prima faciecase of racial discrimination under the so-called Batsontest. The state Supreme Court later reinstated the conviction, stating that before Johnson could get a Batsoninquiry, he needed “strong evidence” showing that race was “more likely than not” the reason for the prosecutor’s challenges. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, remanding the issue back to the state high court. While California justices unanimously found Monday that the trial court made a mistake when it didn’t ask for adequate explanations for the dismissal of certain jurors, “we see no compelling reason to provide a more favorable remedy than the federal courts themselves provide,” according to the opinion written by Justice Ming Chin. A remand for further hearings is the normal process in the federal courts, justices point out. The state attorney general’s office agreed with the court’s ruling. “It establishes an appropriate process,” said AG spokesman Tom Dresslar. Bedrick, however, argues that it has been more than seven years since his client’s trial ended and memories can grow fuzzy. “It’s beyond ordinary human behavior to remember” that far back, Bedrick said. It’s a concern the Supreme Court raised in its opinion and passed on to the trial court for further consideration. “[T]he trial court, on remand, retains the discretion to decide that an accurate reconstruction of the voir direis impossible due to the passage of time, requiring that the conviction be reversed,” wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar in a concurring opinion. Justices point out that the case’s jury questionnaires are still intact, as is a verbatim transcript of the jury selection proceeding “to help refresh their recollection.” Dresslar said the AG’s office expects the prosecutor in the Johnsoncase to be truthful in explaining why certain jurors were struck from the case. It will be up to the trial court to assess “the validity of the reasons stated,” Dresslar said. “It’s what they do.” The case is People v. Johnson , S127602.

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