The Second Department determined the trial judge's denial of the defense's for cause juror challenge was reversible error:
CPL 270.20(1)(b) provides that a prospective juror may be challenged for cause if the juror “has a state of mind that is likely to preclude him [or her] from rendering an impartial verdict based upon the evidence adduced at the trial.” Where an issue is raised concerning the ability of a prospective juror to be fair and impartial, the prospective juror must state unequivocally that his or her prior state of mind will not influence his or her verdict, and that he or she will render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence … . A prospective juror's responses, construed as a whole, must demonstrate an absolute belief that his or her prior opinion will not influence his or her verdict … .
Here, during voir dire, one prospective juror indicated in response to questioning by defense counsel that, because she had a 14-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old daughter, this “could” weigh on her ability to be fair and impartial because “[t]hey are the same age range” as the complainant. When defense counsel followed up by asking, “[w]ould you fear whether or not you could be fair and impartial?,” the prospective juror responded by stating, “I think it would be hard for me to watch a witness, being that I have daughters the same age.”
Once the prospective juror expressed doubt regarding her ability to be impartial, it was incumbent upon the court to ascertain that she would render an impartial verdict based on the evidence … . This was not done. People v Valdez, 2016 NY Slip Op 03203, 2nd Dept 4-27-16