In reversing the conviction, the Second Department determined two juror challenges for cause should have been granted because the jurors indicated they would tend to give added weight to the testimony of police officers and the court did not seek unequivocal assurances the jurors could set aside their bias. Defendant’s co-defendant’s judgment of conviction was reversed for the same reasons.
[The following quotation is from the decision reversing the co-defendant’s, Bernard Brothers’, judgment of conviction:
…[T]he County Court erred in denying the defendant’s challenges for cause with respect to two prospective jurors. One of the prospective jurors was a volunteer for the Police Athletic League who knew many police officers, including those assigned to the precinct in which the crime occurred. While he initially stated, “I think I could keep an open mind,” and he did not “think” that the fact that police officers from the precinct would testify at the trial would affect his ability to sit fairly on the case, he subsequently agreed that he “might” give police testimony a “leg up,” and accord such testimony “a little built in credibility.” Another prospective juror indicated that he would be inclined to accept the testimony of police officers as truthful unless there was a “reason that’s brought up that would make me think otherwise,” that he would have to have “a sense of inconsistency” with respect to the testimony of police officers, and that “unless there is a reason why they would lie or not tell the truth,” he would accept the testimony of police officers. It is undisputed that, after the County Court denied the challenges for cause to these two prospective jurors, the defendant exercised peremptory challenges and subsequently exhausted all of his peremptory challenges.
The two prospective jurors had “a state of mind that [was] likely to preclude [them] from rendering an impartial verdict” (CPL 270.20  [b]), and they did not provide to the County Court “an unequivocal assurance” that they could “set aside any bias and render an impartial verdict based on the evidence” … . Accordingly, the County Court should have granted the challenges for cause with respect to these two prospective jurors, and the matter must be remitted to the County Court, Suffolk County, for a new trial. People v Brothers, 95 AD3d 1227]