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Prosecutor: No Fat Jurors
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A federal appeals court is examining a prosecutor’s odd explanation for striking the only black person from a jury on drug & weapons case — that she was obese.

Defendant Seth Dolphy wants his convictions vacated because the prosecutor was using obesity as a pretext to discriminate against the only black on the jury.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals has remanded the case, to give a lower court the chance to reconstruct what happened at Dolphy’s 1997 trial in state court in Binghamton, New York.

  
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Michael A. Korchak, then a Broome County assistant district attorney, challenged the black juror during selection. The defense objcted, but Korchak said he was striking the female juror for her appearance.

“I do not select overweight people on the jury panel for reasons that, based on my reading and past experience, that heavy-set people tend to be very sympathetic toward any defendant,” he said.

The judge said he was satisfied the prosecutor had offered a valid race-neutral explanation and ruled that the strike could stand.

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Dolphy was later sentenced to serve 14 1/2 to 16 years in prison.

But the 2nd Circuit court is more sympathetic to Dolphy’s argument.



While the prosecution’s proffered explanation was facially race-neutral, it rested precariously on an intuited correlation between body fat and sympathy for persons accused of crimes (seemingly without regard to the weight of the defendant). Yet the trial court’s initial ruling was made without inquiry or finding, as though the ground for making the strike was self-evident.

Dolphy’s lawyer, Robert Culp (not that Robert Culp), is pleased his client has a chance to challenge his conviction. “I hope this decision moves us forward toward the goal of judging people as individuals rather than through assumptions or stereotypes based on appearances,” said Culp.

Via NYLJ.



 

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