The First Department, over a two-justice dissent, determined defense counsel’s “for cause” challenge to a juror (Ms. J) should have been granted. Two of the juror’s siblings had been the victims of serious crimes. Although the juror, at one point, indicated she could be fair, she subsequently expressed doubt and the trial judge did not make any further inquiry at that point:
While it is true that the trial judge in this case asked Ms. J. on October 5, 2011 whether the crimes suffered by her siblings would affect her ability to be fair, the judge did not repeat this inquiry the next day when Ms. J. repeated her belief that her siblings’ experience might affect her ability to be fair. Defense counsel’s general inquiry into whether Ms. J. would have difficulty returning a not guilty verdict if she had a reasonable doubt was insufficient to elicit an unequivocal assurance of her impartiality, as this questioning failed to confront the very issue she had raised: that her siblings’ experiences would affect her, thus making it less likely that she might have any reasonable doubt. Just as defense counsel’s venire-wide inquiry in Arnold did not directly address a prospective juror’s personal bias, in this case, defense counsel’s general inquiry about reasonable doubt did not directly address the concerns of bias raised by Ms. J. on October 6, 2011.
…[W]e [also] find that the totality of Ms. J.’s responses did not indicate that she could set aside what happened to her brother and sister. People v Small, 2016 NY Slip Op 08293, 1st Dept 12-8-16
CRIMINAL LAW (FOR CAUSE CHALLENGE TO JUROR SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED, TRIAL JUDGE DID NOT MAKE A SUFFICIENT INQUIRY WHEN THE JUROR EXPRESSED DOUBT SHE COULD BE FAIR)/JURORS (CRIMINAL, FOR CAUSE CHALLENGE TO JUROR SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED, TRIAL JUDGE DID NOT MAKE A SUFFICIENT INQUIRY WHEN THE JUROR EXPRESSED DOUBT SHE COULD BE FAIR)