New York Federal Criminal Practice Blog
April 22, 2009

EDNY Judge Dismisses Juror Who Revealed Bias After Opening Statements

It must have been a showstopper, because after hearing defense counsel’s opening statement and before hearing any evidence, a juror in United States v. Uvino, 2008 WL 5272494 (E.D.N.Y. December 18, 2008), notified EDNY Judge Weinstein that his view that cooperating witnesses were inherently untrustworthy had been “further strengthened.”  The government moved to dismiss him for cause.  The defense, not surprisingly, wanted to keep him.

While Fed.R.Crim.P. 24, which sets forth the procedure for selecting and replacing jurors, does not address the circumstances under which a juror may be disqualified, the Second Circuit has held that “district courts have broad discretion to replace jurors at any time before the jury retires for deliberations.”  For example, a court would be justified in excusing a juror who indicated an intent to nullify the applicable law or is biased by virtue of a relationship or event. 

Judge Weinstein sided with the government:

Juror Six initially represented that he would be able to consider the testimony and evidence at trial without allowing his biases to interfere with his duties as a juror. Prior to receiving any evidence, he expressed biases and preconceived notions that made clear his inability to fairly consider the evidence and follow the instructions of the court. He is disqualified from jury service in this case.

Lawyers: Michael Washor, Nicholas Pinto, Law Offices of Michael Washor (defendants); AUSAs Deborah Mayer, Elizabeth Geddes, James Gatta

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