Civil Rights Groups Hail Appeals Court Ruling in Case Challenging Exclusion of Dark-Skinned Juror – Joel Stashenko / New York Law Journal

Associate Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam

ALBANY – Excluding a juror based on skin tone, like race, is prohibited under the New York Constitution, the state’s highest court has ruled in a case hailed by civil rights groups and affinity bar associations as an important decision.

The Court of Appeals decided unanimously that the way the jury was selected for a robbery trial in Queens Supreme Court violated the protections preventing the exclusion of jurors solely based on their race, color, creed or religion, as declared by the U.S. Supreme Court in Batson v. Kentucky , 476 US 79 (1986).

The court said in its Dec. 22 ruling that it was the first time it has explicitly stated that “race” and “color” are not the same in regards to juror bias purposes, and that a person’s dark skin tone could be a basis of cognizable discrimination under New York’s constitution and civil rights statutes.

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