New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department
Race-neutral explanations – Out-of-state jurors
Appealed from Onondaga County Court
Background: The defendant appealed from his conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal use of drug paraphernalia, and endangering the welfare of a child. The conviction arose from an incident in which police officers, while on proactive patrol of an apartment complex located in an area known for drug and gang activity, pulled alongside a parked vehicle. The defendant exited the vehicle and advanced toward the officers. At the same time, a six-year-old girl was crying and distraught, exited from the back seat of the vehicle, and the codefendant exited from the driver’s seat. The police noticed cocaine on the front passenger seat and a search of the vehicle revealed a plastic bag containing a large amount of pressed cocaine, a glass measuring cup, a large digital scale with white residue on its surface, cash, and cell phones. The defendant challenged the prosecutor’s exercise of peremptory challenges with respect to three prospective jurors of color.
Ruling: The Appellate Division affirmed. The court held that the people offered a facially race-neutral explanation for the challenges. The prosecutor explained that the prospective jurors were originally from out-of-state locations, rather than the community where the crimes occurred, and the prosecutor had found that persons with longer ties to the community were more concerned about drugs in the area. Further, another prospective juror was struck because the juror had prior criminal charges that had been dismissed on self-defense grounds.
John R. Lewis, of the Frank H. Hiscock Legal Aid Society, for the defendant-appellant; Kenneth H. Tyler Jr., of the district attorney’s office, for the respondent.