LOS ANGELES – A state appeals court panel upheld a Palmdale woman’s conviction for fatally shooting a woman after a brief romantic relationship more than seven years ago.
In a 2-1 ruling, a panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that the trial court erred in denying multiple defense motions alleging that the prosecution used its peremptory challenges to excuse seven prospective jurors who were black or Hispanic from hearing the case against Larene Eleanor Austin solely based on their race or ethnicity.
Austin was convicted in August 2015 of first-degree murder for the June 16, 2010, killing of Lanell Barsock, 31, who was shot in the head in Palmdale.
Jurors also found true an allegation that Austin used a handgun during the commission of the crime.
The majority of the appellate court panel noted that the jury that ended up hearing the case against Austin — who is black — included six Hispanics, five Caucasians and one black, along with three blacks and one Caucasian who served as alternate jurors.
In a 12-page dissenting ruling, Associate Justice Luis Lavin wrote he concluded that Austin was “denied her right to a fair trial under the Equal Protection Clause of the federal Constitution” and “her right to a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under our state Constitution.”
Lavin wrote that “the record contradicts two of the prosecutor’s three proffered race-neutral reasons” for striking the last of two African- American men from the panel of prospective jurors and that “a careful review of the record casts doubt on the credibility of the prosecutor’s remaining justification.”
Austin and Barsock had a brief romantic relationship after meeting through craigslist before Barsock ended the relationship to focus on her boyfriend, according to court testimony.
Investigators alleged that Austin tried to frame Barsock’s boyfriend for the killing.
Austin fled the country once investigators cleared the man of involvement, according to court testimony.
She was arrested in January 2012 in the Central American country of Belize after the case was featured on an episode of the television series “America’s Most Wanted,” and returned to Los Angeles County later that month.
Austin is serving a 50-year-to-life term in state prison.
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