Thursday, September 23, 2021 5:10 am

Supreme Court rules judges don’t need to justify juror dismissals

In a note to U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, the jury raised questions about the impartiality of one of its members. Brown has sent a note back to the jury asking them for clarification. / Amelia Templeton / OPB

By Evan Oscherwitz | Arizona Capitol Times

The Arizona Supreme Court last week unanimously ruled that trial judges in the state do not have to give explicit evidence for demeanor-based jury strikes unless the explanation offered by the prosecutor is deemed to be implausible.  

The decision struck down a ruling by the state Court of Appeals, which concluded that Judge Monica Garfinkel of Maricopa County Superior Court needed to provide explicit findings to justify the striking of two black jurors in a criminal case in which the defendant was Black.  

Keyaira Porter, a Maricopa County woman charged with aggravated assault of a police officer and resisting arrest, alleged that the jurors were removed peremptorily (without explanation) on the basis of race. 

“We disagree,” Justice John Lopez wrote on behalf of the Supreme Court. “We also express our confidence that trial judges – who are in a better position to discern the intent and demeanor of prosecutors and jurors – are uniquely situated to determine whether peremptory challenges are being used to discriminate against minority jurors.” 

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