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New York Appellate Court Reverses Conviction Based on Improper Use of Peremptory Strikes During Jury Selection

As we have been discussing in previous blogs, there are many different issues that can arise in the jury selection process. The main objective is to ensure that the jurors who are selected for the trial will act without bias and that they will be able to apply the law in an objective manner. As seasoned New York criminal defense lawyers, the attorneys at Tilem & Associates have handled many trials and jury selections. We know how important it is to understand the rules of jury selection and how critical it is to ensure that you receive an appropriate and unbiased panel of jurors.

Recently, a New York appellate court considered the role that a juror’s skin color may play in the jury selection process. The court was asked to determine whether a juror’s skin color is a sufficient basis for challenging a prosecutor’s use of a peremptory strike to remove that juror. A peremptory strike describes the right of either party to challenge the selection of a juror without having to provide a reason for wanting to excuse that prospective juror. During the jury selection process, each side has a certain number of peremptory strikes that they are allowed to use. The parties are allowed to assert an unlimited number of challenges to jurors when the parties provide just cause for wanting to excuse that juror.

The United States Supreme Court has held, however, that peremptory strikes cannot be used to dismiss a juror based on his or her skin color or gender. If a party believes that the other side is using peremptory strikes to dismiss jurors based on skin color or gender, the party can challenge the other side’s peremptory strike, particularly when the challenging party believes that the other party is engaging in discrimination. The challenging party has the burden of making a prima facie showing that the other party used peremptory challenges to exclude jurors based on skin color.

In the case, the defendant was a dark-complexioned African-American man involved in a robbery. During jury selection, the prosecutor used several peremptory strikes to remove a number of jurors. One of those was a dark-complexioned Indian-American woman. The defendant challenged the peremptory strike against this juror and four other peremptory strikes, alleging that the prosecution had removed all of the dark-complexioned prospective jurors without sufficient reasons. The lower court concluded that the defendant failed to establish a prima facie showing of discrimination.

On appeal, the reviewing court reversed, finding that the trial court committed an error. According to the appellate court, after the defendant challenged the prosecutor’s use of a peremptory strike, the prosecutor failed to provide a non-discriminatory reason for why he used the strike. The court still failed to seat the juror at issue despite the defendant having satisfied the prima facie requirement for challenging a peremptory strike.

If you are involved in a criminal investigation or facing a criminal trial, you need to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the fair treatment that you deserve. The jury selection process can be confusing and fast-paced. At Tilem & Associates, our experienced criminal defense lawyers have handled numerous trials on behalf of New York residents. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help you obtain the just treatment that you deserve. Call us now at 1-877-377-8666 or contact us online.

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