The case highlights the importance of a New York Criminal Defense Attorney preserving the record and properly exercising juror challenges because, as was the case here, even a seemingly innocuous statement and position by the New York Assistant District Attorney trying the case can result in a reversal. The situation is such that the Criminal Defendant and two other individuals go to a strip club where the Criminal Defendant drinks and pays for a lap dance. Evidently upset at the quality of the dance, a scuffle ensues. The accusation is that the Defendant assaulted another resulting in serious bodily injury.
Here, the record reflects that the People sought to exercise peremptory challenges to exclude four of the five nonwhite individuals comprising the second panel of prospective trial jurors. Indeed, as defense counsel noted, “The only [nonwhite juror] who was not excluded [from this panel] was the daughter-in-law of the former Chief of Police of the Albany Police Department.” In response to defense counsel’s Batson challenge, County Court asked the People — “based upon the peremptory challenges” asserted — to “give a race-neutral reason…for th[o]se selections,” thereby implicitly finding that defendant had made a prima facie showing of discrimination. The People provided such an explanation as to prospective juror Nos. 4, 6 and 17 but refused to offer a race-neutral explanation as to prospective juror No. 2, noting that this juror was the first nonwhite juror that they had sought to exclude by use of a peremptory challenge. As the prosecuting attorney succinctly put it, “I shouldn’t be made to give a reason for the first one.” Defense counsel took issue with the People’s lack of a raceneutral explanation for the exclusion of this juror, noting that “the fact that [prospective juror No. 2] was the first person of color [to be] excluded [was]…merely fortuitous.” County Court rejected defendant’s argument on this point and allowed the People to exercise a peremptory challenge to exclude prospective juror No. 2, as well as prospective juror Nos. 4 and 6.