New York Court Rules Defendants Entitled to New Trial After Issues During Jury Selection

In a recent case before the Appellate Division, First Department in New York, the court decided another issue regarding jury selection in favor of  two defendants who the Court said were entitled to a new trial after a possible error in jury selection prior to the the trial. The defendants were originally found guilty of robbery in the first degree, robbery in the second degree, and gang assault in the first degree after a jury trial. The defendants appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly denied their challenges to jury selection before trial. The higher court granted the defendants’ appeal, siding with the defendants and remanding their case back to the lower court.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the two defendants in this case were charged several years ago after a violent robbery. The case went to trial, and before trial began, the court began the process of selecting a jury for the trial.
During jury selection, each side is allowed to object to several possible jurors that could end up deciding the case. In this jury selection in particular, the prosecution objected to five possible jurors — all of these possible jurors were nonwhite. When the defense challenged these objections, arguing they could have been based on the potential jury members’ race, the court dismissed the challenge and quickly moved on.
Ultimately, the jury found the defendants guilty, and the defendants appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendants argued that the court should have allowed them to fully challenge the prosecution’s objections during jury selection. According to case law under a case called Batson v. Kentucky, the court is required to allow defendants an opportunity to present a full challenge to the opposing party’s decision to object to a possible jury member. The Baston challenges come into play specifically when one side wants to object to the other side’s jury selection on the grounds of race, ethnicity, or sex.

Here, the higher court concluded that the lower court indeed made a mistake by failing to ask the prosecution to provide an explanation for striking several prospective jurors. Because the court did not create this opportunity for the prosecution, it essentially shut the defense attorney’s challenge down without allowing him to pursue the challenge in any substantial way.
Because of this error, the higher court determined that the defendants were entitled to a new trial. The court remanded the case, which will allow the defendants another opportunity to present their case and argue for a more favorable verdict.

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