The Second Department, reversing defendant’s conviction, determined the denial of defense counsel’s slightly late peremptory challenge to an unsworn juror was an abuse of discretion:
The court named prospective juror number one to be assigned a seat and said, “We now have ten, need two. Looking at Chavez – -,” when defense counsel interrupted, stating that he had made an error and had intended to exercise a peremptory challenge to prospective juror number one. Defense counsel acknowledged that the challenge was “a couple of seconds” late, and requested permission to excuse prospective juror number one. The court summarily denied the request.
The defendant contends that the Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in denying his belated peremptory challenge. We agree. Under CPL 270.15, “the decision to entertain a belated peremptory challenge is left to the discretion of the trial court” … . Where a belated peremptory challenge to as-yet unsworn prospective jurors “would interfere with or delay the process of jury selection,” it is a proper exercise of the court’s discretion to refuse to permit the challenge … . However, where there is “no discernable interference or undue delay caused by defense counsel’s momentary oversight that would justify [the court’s] hasty refusal to entertain [the] defendant’s challenge,” it is an improvident exercise of discretion to deny it … . Here, the delay in challenging prospective juror number one was de minimis …. There was no discernable interference or undue delay caused by defense counsel’s momentary oversight, and the voir dire of the next subgroup of jurors was still to be conducted … . People v Price, 2019 NY Slip Op 06629, Second Dept 9-18-19