Archive | jury selection

Friday, March 3rd, 2023

Circuit rejects new trial bid, despite evidentiary errors and refusal to voir dire on “antisemitic bias.”

In United States v. Mendlowitz, No. 21-2049-cr (2d Cir. March 2, 2023) (summary order), the Second Circuit affirms the defendant’s wire fraud convictions, despite possible evidentiary errors and the district court’s refusal to ask about “potential antisemitic bias” during jury selection.

On appeal following trial, the defendant challenged the district court’s exclusion of a proffered expert witness and a recorded conversation between the defendant and a cooperating witness. The Circuit largely agreed with defendant’s arguments: it recognized that, contra the district court, the proffered expert testimony about standard industry practices would have been relevant to the defendant’s good faith defense. The expert testimony also would have provided relevant information outside the average juror’s knowledge and beyond any government witness testimony.

With respect to the recorded conversation, the defendant argued that it reflected his state of mind at the time of the charged conduct and supported his defense. The district …

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Categories: expert witnesses, harmless error, jury selection, voir dire

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Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Supreme Court Debrief: Flowers v. Mississippi

In Flowers v. Mississippi, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that death-row inmate Curtis Flowers’ criminal trial was affected by racial discrimination.  You can read more about the case here.

Georgetown Professors Abbe Smith and Vida Johnson of Georgetown Law’s Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic, two career criminal defense attorneys, have recorded a video exploring the Flowers case, its implications and how criminal defenders and prosecutors should approach jury selection going forward.

You can watch the video here.…

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Categories: Batson, bias, jury selection, Uncategorized

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Monday, June 24th, 2019

The Supreme Court reverses death sentence for State inmate because of violations of Batson v. Kentucky (proscribing racially based exercises of peremptory challenges in jury selection): Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572, __S.Ct. __, 2019 WL 2552489 (June 21, 2019).

In Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572, __U.S.__ , 2019 WL 2552489  (June 21, 2019), the Court reversed a death sentence because of a violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), which prohibits the racially discriminatory use of peremptory challenges.

Curtis Flowers was tried in six separate trials, by the “same lead prosecutor” for an offense that occurred in 1996. The first trial was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct; the second and third trials involved judicial findings of Batson violations;  and after the fourth and fifth trials resulted in hung juries, in the sixth trial, the prosecutor struck five of the six black prospective jurors, and Flowers was convicted. Op. at 1-2.  In a 7-2 decision, authored by Justice Kavanagh, the Court reversed the decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court affirming the conviction.

The Court cited four critical facts that taken together required reversal. “First, in …

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Categories: Batson, government misconduct, jury selection

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Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Circuit Says SDNY Jury Selection Is “Trivial”

United States v. Gupta, No. 09-4738-cr (2d Cir. June 17, 2011) (Walker, Parker, Hall, CJJ)

Anyone who has ever selected a jury in the Southern District knows that the typical voir dire there is a perfunctory affair indeed: a few questions about potential bias, a few about household composition, then you exercise your challenges and open after lunch. Perhaps that’s why the panel majority here held that the exclusion of the entire public for an entire SDNY voir dire was covered by the circuit’s “triviality exception” to the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial.

Before jury selection began at Gupta’s immigration fraud trial, the district court closed the courtroom to the public, preventing – at a minimum – Gupta’s girlfriend and brother from attending. The court acted without notice to the parties and, when later called upon to do so, gave two reasons for the closure: the need to …

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Categories: jury selection, public trial, Uncategorized

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Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Gender Contender

United States v. Paris, No. 08-5071-cr (2d Cir. September 17, 2010) (Jacobs, Wesley, Chin, CJJ)

This interesting Batson decision deals with gender-based peremptory challenges, a subject that the circuit has not previously discussed.


For about five years, Dennis Paris ran a multi-state prostitution ring centered in the Hartford, Connecticut, area and recruited teenage girls to work for him. He was charged with criminal sex trafficking and conspiracy offenses, and took the case to trial.

Before jury selection, his attorney notified the district court that Paris would exercise peremptory challenges primarily against women, because he believed that male jurors would be “fairer to Mr. Paris than female jurors will be.” Sure enough, after the challenges for cause were resolved, Paris used his first four peremptory challenges against women. When the government registered a Batson objection, defense counsel conceded that gender was “absolutely” one of the reasons for the strikes.

The …

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Categories: Batson, jury selection, Uncategorized

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Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Shipping Bricks

United States v. Bermudez, No. 06-5119-cr (2d Cir. June 17, 2008) (Walker, Calabresi, CJJ, Underhill, DJ)

Richie Bermudez was convicted, after a jury trial, of being a felon in possession of a firearm. On appeal, he challenged an evidentiary ruling, as well as the district court’s jury selection method.

The Evidentiary Ruling

Police officers were watching Bermudez on the street in a high-crime area of the Bronx. The officers were in an unmarked car, and three of them overheard him tell an associate that he had “fresh bricks back at his apartment.” Shortly thereafter, they saw him open the trunk of his car and give a gun to someone named Delgado, at which point both were arrested. Delgado pled guilty to gun possession, was sentenced to seventy months’ imprisonment, and did not appeal.

Bermudez went to trial, and his first jury hung. At the retrial, he introduced Delgado’s testimony from …

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Categories: jury selection, rule 404(b), Uncategorized

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Monday, December 31st, 2007

Permanent Waive

United States v. Quinones, No. 04-5554 (2d Cir. December 28, 2007) (Winter, Cabranes, Raggi, CJJ)

This case has lengthy discussions of two important issues. It turns out that the one that has received the less press is actually the more interesting of the two, so we’ll begin with that.

1. Sentencing Error Waived

Facts: In this capital case, the defendants initially faced three counts that exposed them to the death penalty. Two related to murder in aid of racketeering under 18 U.S.C. § 1959; for these, a life sentence was mandatory if death was not imposed. The defendants were acquitted of these counts.

They were convicted only of murder in relation to a continuing drug enterprise (“CCE”) under 21 U.S.C. § 848(e). At the time, that section provided for a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life if death was not imposed. Nevertheless, the defendants …

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Categories: jury selection, sentencing, Uncategorized, waiver

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