A state appeals court has reversed an assault conviction and ordered a new trial because of an impropriety during jury selection.
Defendant, Daulat R. Gurtala, was convicted in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Second Department, has now reversed the verdict and ordered a new trial.
During jury selection, Suffolk County Court Judge James W. Malone denied the defense counsel’s Batson challenge to the prosecutor’s exercise of peremptory challenges to excuse two prospective jurors who were, “like defendant, people of color,” according to the decision.
A Batson challenge refers to the case of Batson v Kentucky, a 1986 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that established a three-step analysis for determining whether peremptory challenges are being used to exclude potential jurors “for impermissibly discriminatory reasons.”
The first step is for that the moving party must establish a prima facie case of discrimination in the use of the peremptory challenge.
In the second step, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to provide race-neutral reasons for the peremptory challenge.
If the nonmoving party provides facially permissible, nondiscriminatory reasons for the peremptory challenge, the third step of the Batson challenge is then reached.
In the third step, the burden shifts back to the moving party to prove purposeful discrimination and the judge must determine whether the proffered reasons are pretextual.
“After the defense made a prima facie showing of discrimination in the prosecutor’s peremptory challenges to excuse the two prospective jurors who were, like defendant, ‘people of color’ the prosecutor provided nondiscriminatory reasons for the challenges,” according to the decision.
“In response, defense counsel established that the reasons offered by the People, although facially neutral, were pretextual and not the genuine reasons for the challenges,” according to the decision.
“Consequently, defendant is entitled to a new trial,” the court ruled.
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