New York Federal Criminal Practice Blog
June 26, 2008

Second Circuit Upholds "Blind Strike" Method of Jury Selection

Striking another blow against the strategic use of peremptory challenges, the Second Circuit upheld the "blind strike" method of jury selection in United States v. Bermudez, 06-5119-cr, 2008 WL 2415713 (2d Cir. June 17, 2008).  This is where both parties simultaneously exercise their peremptory challenges rather than alternately, leading to the possibility that the defense and the prosecutor strike the same person. 

Citing a Nineteenth Century Supreme Court case and five sister circuits, the Court held the defendant has no right to know the government's strikes before announcing his own.  He only has the right to strike up to ten jurors he finds objectionable.  "No injury [is] done if the government unite[s] with him in excluding particular persons from the jury" (quoting Pointer v. United States, 151 U.S. 396 (1894)). 

Of course, for the defense, duplicating a strike with the government means wasting a strike - a strike that could have been used more effectively to increase the defendant's prospects of getting a jury of his peers, or even a couple of jurors of his peers.  Afterall, given the racial disparities between the jury panels and the population of defendants, the defense doesn't just exercise its strikes to exclude people from the jury, it also uses strikes strategically in order to include particular people. Once again, as it did in Rodriguez, the Second Circuit has declined to give the defense any strategic advantage in jury selection, beyond the advantage granted by law (ten strikes as opposed to the government's six). 

In addition to the jury selection issue, most of this opinion deals with an evidentiary issue - whether the government could introduce bolstering evidence in anticipation of, but prior to, an actual attack on their witness's credibility.  The majority affirmed, but there is a compelling (and disheartening) dissent from District Judge Underhill, sitting by designation.

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