New York Appellate Lawyer

48 Wall Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10005

Federal Criminal Appeals Throughout The United States and
New York State Criminal Appeals.

Located at 48 Wall Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY! 1-800-APPEALS (277-3257)

Batson Challenges At Jury Selection: Gender Neutrality Required


batson challenges, criminal appeals attorney, gender neutraility

U.S v. Bontzaolakes

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

536 Fed.Appx. 41 2013

Decided on: September 4, 2013

Discriminatory Practices During Jury Selection Are Subject To Challenges Under Batson v. Kentucky

Blog Boy: Stephen N. Preziosi Esq., Criminal Appeals Lawyer

Issue: Whether the District Court erred under the third step of Batson when it allowed the People’s use of a peremptory strike against five female members of the venire based on their gender.

Summary: Defendant appeals from the District Court’s judgment of conviction, following a jury trial, for two counts of international kidnapping, and one count of making false statements. During the jury selection, the Government employed five peremptory strikes to dismiss women from the jury pool. Defense raised a Batson challenge to the Government’s use of strikes arguing that it constituted intentional discrimination on the basis of sex.

The District Court directed the Government to provide explanations and stated that the Government’s reasons were sufficient and denied Defendant’s Batson challenge.

On Appeal, Defendant claims that the Government’s use of preemptory challenged against female members of the venire violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 1986, and its progeny that a Prosecutor’s use of certain preemptory challenges during jury selection is prohibited by the United States Constitution. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the case to the District Court for a reconstruction hearing to make fair determinations of the Prosecution’s intent.

See Also: Conscious Avoidance Instruction To The Jury: The Trial Court May Instruct A Jury That Defendant Consciously Avoided Knowledge Of Criminal Activity Where The Evidence Demonstrates That There Was Actual Knowledge

Holding: The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the District Court erred under the third step of Batson when it reasoned with the People’s explanations for having stricken each of the female jurors and held that it constituted intentional discrimination on the basis of sex.

In determining whether peremptory challenges have been used in a discriminatory manner. First, the moving party must establish a prima facie case of discrimination; the opposing party must then provide a neutral justification for the exercise of the challenge; and finally, the District Court must evaluate whether the moving party has satisfied his ultimate burden of establishing that the peremptory challenge was the result of purposeful discrimination.

Facts: Defendant Jacqueline Bontzolakes appeals from the District Court’s judgment of conviction, following a jury trial, for two counts of international kidnapping, and one count of making false statements. During the jury selection, the Government made five peremptory strikes to dismiss women from the jury pool. Defense counsel raised a timely Batson challenge to the Government’s use of its peremptory strikes, arguing that this pattern of strikes and the resulting jury pool constituted intentional discrimination on the basis of sex. The District Court directed the Government to provide explanations and simply stated that the Government’s reasons were sufficient and denied Defendant’s Batson challenge.

On Appeal, Defendant claims that the Government’s use of preemptory challenged against female members of the venire violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 1986, and its progeny that a Prosecutor’s use of certain preemptory challenges during jury selection is prohibited by the United States Constitution. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the case to the District Court to conduct a reconstruction hearing to reconstruct the Prosecutor’s state of mind at the time of jury selection, and thereby determine whether the proffered sex neutral explanations for the striking of the female jurors were pretextual.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit relied on Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.ED.2d 69 1986, and its progeny that a Prosecutor’s use of certain peremptory challenges during jury selection is prohibited by the United States Constitution. Although first announced in the context of race, the Court note that since Batson, the Supreme Court has extended this doctrine to gender discrimination.

Batson adopted a burden-shifting approach for determining whether peremptory challenges have been used in a discriminatory manner. First, the moving party must establish a prima facie case of discrimination; the opposing party must then provide a neutral justification for the exercise of the challenge; and finally, the District Court must evaluate whether the moving party has satisfied his ultimate burden of establishing that the peremptory challenge was the result of purposeful discrimination.

A Defendant may establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination solely on evidence concerning the Prosecutor’s exercise of peremptory challenges at the Defendant’s trial. The Defendant first must show that he is a member of a cognizable racial group, and that the Prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges to remove from the venire members of the Defendant’s race.

The Defendant may also rely on the facts that peremptory challenges constitute a jury selection practice that permits those to discriminate who are of a mind to discriminate.

Finally, the Defendant must show that such facts and any other relevant circumstances raise an inference that the Prosecutor used peremptory challenges to exclude the venire men from the petit jury on account of their race.

Once the Defendant makes a prima facie showing, the burden shifts to the State to come forward with a neutral explanation.

In this case, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was persuaded that Defendant established a prima facie case of discrimination based on sex and the Government’s use of five peremptory strikes against women.

The District Court’s abrupt acceptances of the Government’s sex-neutral justifications left unclear whether the court actually preformed the determination required at the third step of Batson. To the extent that the District Court made any determinations at the third step of Batson—as opposed to merely accepting the Government’s statement of sex-neutral explanations at the second step of Batson—the District Court did not provide any basis for their determination.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that in these circumstances, they would remand the case for the District Court to conduct a reconstruction hearing, that is, a hearing to reconstruct the Prosecutor’s state of mind at the time of jury selection, and thereby determine whether the proffered sex-neutral explanations for the striking of the female jurors was pretextual. However, if the District Court determines that the passage of time or other factors have unduly impaired their ability to make a fair determination of the Prosecutor’s intent, they shall enter an order that the Defendant is entitled to a new trial.


Related Articles