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Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Rules Gay Men Cannot Be Excluded from Jury Based on Sexual Orientation: Case Likely to Go to the Supreme Court

Here's an interesting case with salient lessons for Florida criminal defendants. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled last Tuesday that lesbians and gay men cannot be excluded as potential jurors, based solely on their sexual orientation. The ruling is at odds with a St. Louis Federal Appeals Court's decision in a similar 2005 case. Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt wrote on behalf of the panel that “gays and lesbians have been systematically excluded from the most important institutions of self-governance … [jury] strikes exercised on the basis of sexual orientation continue this deplorable tradition of treating gays and lesbians as undeserving of participation in our nation’s most cherished rights and rituals.”

The jury selection process is constantly evolving. Attorneys are allowed to strike a certain, predetermined number of jurors from consideration without needing to give an explanation. However, 28 years ago, in the case of Batson V. Kentucky, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lawyers could not strike a prospective juror on the basis of his or her race.

In 1994, another Supreme Court decision expanded that protection and ruled that lawyers can’t strike prospective jurors on basis of gender.

This latest case out of the Ninth Circuit may lead the Supreme Court to forbid lawyers from striking prospective jurors based on their sexual orientation.

The case in question concerns a jury selection in a trial between two large drug companies. A lawyer for Abbott Laboratories struck down a potential juror, after the man had made reference to his “partner,” stating that “he is retired” and that “he does not have to work.” These statements clearly indicated that he was in a homosexual relationship. The case concerned an AIDS medication that might be relevant to men in the gay community. The lawyer who struck the juror, Jeffrey I. Weinberger, argued that he did not know whether the juror was gay or not. However, Judge Reinhardt found that "the record persuasively demonstrates that [the man] was struck because of his sexual orientation."

The St. Louis case from 2005 spoke to a similar question. By contrast, that court found that “we doubt Batson and his progeny would extend constitutional protection to the sexual orientations [of prospective jurors]."

What’s interesting is that the ramifications of Judge Reinhardt’s ruling may go beyond the relatively narrow domain of jury selection. It could, indirectly at least, impact a variety of gay rights and discrimination claims across California and eight other states in the Ninth Circuit.

If you recently committed a crime in Florida, you and your attorney may need to prepare aggressively for a jury trial. How can you methodically, intelligently prepare for various contingencies? The first step is to connect with an experienced, respected legal team, such as the Florida criminal attorneys here atSeltzer Mayberg, LLC.Call us now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE or 888-843-3333 for a free and confidential consultation.

Categories: Criminal Defense
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