A state appeals court has reversed a drunk driving conviction and ordered a new trial because of the judge failed to grant a defense request to excuse two prospective jurors.
Defendant Usman Majid was convicted in October 2019 in Nassau County District Court of driving while intoxicated, possession of an alcoholic beverage in a New York State Park, and parking a vehicle in a prohibited zone.
In a recent decision, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Second Department, reversed the conviction and sent the case back to District Court for a new trial.
Majid’s appellate attorney, Martin Geoffrey Goldberg, argued that District Court Judge Darlene Harris improperly denied the trial lawyer’s challenges to two prospective jurors for cause.
A prospective juror must be excused for cause when they have a state of mind that is likely to preclude them from rendering an impartial verdict based on the evidence, according to the decision.
“The record demonstrates that a prospective juror, who had previously been involved with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), had an actual bias in this case,” the Second Department panel wrote.
The woman was “unable to provide the court with an unequivocal assurance that she could be fair and impartial by setting aside her bias and render an impartial verdict based on the evidence,” according to the verdict.
“The defendant used his last peremptory challenge to excuse this prospective juror before jury selection was completed, a wrongful denial of defendant’s request that the prospective juror be excused for cause constitutes reversible error,” the court wrote.
As a result, the Second Department reviewed Harris’s denial of a defense challenge for cause pertaining to another prospective juror.
“Accordingly, the judgment of conviction is reversed and the matter is remitted to the District Court for a new trial,” the panel wrote.
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