For Cause Challenge to Juror Improperly Denied – New trial granted for Defendant
Defendant appeals from a judgment convicting him, upon a jury verdict, of sexual abuse in the first degree (Penal Law §130.65 ). New York Criminal defendants know enough to know when a juror should be removed because that juror cannot be fair in some cases. This, albeit the juror was placed on the juror over an objection for cause, situation is one of those situations that do not pass the smell test or, as one trial advocacy professor/judge would say, the straight-face test.
The prospective juror’s son was married to the daughter of the District Attorney of Ontario County, R. Michael Tantillo, and who had a grandchild in common with the District Attorney. She says she can impartial in this sexual abuse case. It appears that the statement was unequivocal and the potential juror was seated for the trial. Obviously, there was a conviction. Problem here? The Fourth Department says yes.
The Court finds that
following the denial of the challenge for cause, defendant exercised a peremptory challenge against the prospective juror and later exhausted his peremptory challenges before the completion of jury selection (see CPL 270.20 ; People v. Lynch, 95 NY2d 243, 248)…the prospective juror should have been excused from service for cause on the ground that he bears a “relationship to [the District Attorney] of such nature that it [was] likely to preclude him from rendering an impartial verdict” (CPL 270.20  [c]; see People v. Branch, 46 NY2d 645, 651-652; People v. Bedard, 132 AD3d 1070, 1071; People v. Clark, 125 AD2d 868, 869-870, lv denied 69 NY2d 878).
The case is People v. Collins, KA 14-02296, NYLJ 1202775609150, at *1 (App. Div., 4th, Decided December 23, 2016).
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