Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Forfeiting Peremptory Challenges Used in a Discriminatory Manner is a Permissible Remedy for Batson Violations

The Court of Appeals, in People v Luciano, 2008 NY Slip Op 04898 [6/3/08] has held that forfeiture or permeptory challenges is a permissible remedy for attorneys who exercise peremtory challenges in violation of the constitiuion under Batson v Kentucky, 476 US 79 [1986] and its progeny. However, the Court noted

that the free exercise of peremptory challenges is a venerable trial tool that should be denied only in rare circumstances. In fashioning the proper remedy, a trial judge may consider, among other factors, whether the challenged juror is available to be reseated, whether the litigant appears to be engaging in a pattern of discrimination, and the number of peremptory challenges that remain to be exercised. While even a single instance of discriminatory conduct may warrant forfeiture, where the finding of discrimination is close, forfeiture may not be an appropriate remedy (citations omitted).


In Luciano the trial court's ruling that cousnel has forfeited permentory challenges was error and the defendat was entitled to a new trial

because the trial judge was under a misapprehension that the law required forfeiture and failed to exercise the requisite discretion. As the court stated, "The law is that if you exercise the strikes and you determine them to [have been made] on a[] discriminatory basis, you forfeit those rights." As a result, defense counsel exhausted his peremptory challenges before the completion of jury selection. This is reversible error, entitling defendant to a new trial. In so holding, we reach no conclusion as to whether there was indeed a Batson violation or whether forfeiture would have been a proper remedy had discretion been exercised.

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