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New York Appellate Court Affirms Denial of New Trial When Defendant Was Wearing Prison Clothes During Jury Selection

orange prison clothesJury selection is one of the most important aspects of any case. At Tilem Law Offices, our seasoned New York gun crime lawyers have handled countless voir dire selection processes and understand just what it takes to make sure that you receive a fair jury. As a recent appellate opinion indicates, even the clothes you are wearing during jury selection may have an impact on your legal rights.

In the case, the defendant was arrested while entering a vehicle that was reported stolen at gunpoint nearly two weeks before. The defendant was charged with both first-degree and second-degree robbery. Before the jury selection phase of the trial, the defendant noted that he was not wearing his own clothing and that he was not provided with a chance to contact his family. The defendant requested an adjournment, which was granted. The judge granted the adjournment to allow the defendant a chance to obtain plain clothes, as opposed to the orange correctional facilities jumpsuit that he was wearing. After the adjournment, the defendant returned wearing a plain black top but still wearing orange correctional facility-issued sweatpants. Since the defendant was seated at the end of a long table, and since the judge believed that the jury would not be able to see the defendant’s sweatpants, the judge denied the defendant’s request to postpone jury selection until he could obtain plain clothes.

The prospective jurors were asked whether they noticed anything about the defendant. One indicated noticing that the defendant was in a wheelchair, which the parties explained was irrelevant to the case. Six jury members were selected that day. On the next day, the defendant was wearing a suit, and the jury selection process continued. Testimony from the victim and the arresting officer was provided, and the jury returned a verdict convicting the defendant of both counts of robbery.

The defendant appealed the conviction, and the Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the defendant’s correctional pants did not have an impact on his right to obtain a fair trial, especially considering that the defendant was only wearing the pants for half of the first day of jury selection. The defendant appealed again.

On review, the appellate court concluded that the pants did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial. The court cited earlier case precedent holding that to require a defendant to appear before the jury in correctional attire results in a denial of the right of defendants to appear with dignity, self-respect, and the appearance of a free and innocent person. Applied to the present case, however, the court ruled that since there was no evidence in the record indicating that the jury could see the defendant’s prison-issued clothing, there was no impact on his right to a fair trial. Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling and denied the defendant’s request for a new trial.

If you are facing a criminal investigation, or if you are a defendant in a criminal matter, it is imperative that you consult with a dedicated gun crime lawyer as soon as possible. Our seasoned team of legal professionals will ensure that you assert your right to a fair trial at every step and help you with protecting your rights. It may be tempting to speak to the authorities in the hope of clearing your name, but this can backfire and result in irreversible damage to your case. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about your legal rights, so contact us now at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online.

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