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United States v. Dejean

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 17, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
PATRICK HALE DEJEAN

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARY ANN VIAL LEMMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         IT IS ORDERED that defendants's Motion for New Trial (Rec. Doc. 127) is DENIED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In this motion, defendant seeks a new trial[1] arguing that the court improperly denied his challenge for cause of Juror 31. Defendant also argues that due to administrative problems, a juror who was not impartial was seated. Specifically, defense counsel points to the fact that because several prospective jurors who had legitimate hardships were not flagged as such by the jury administrator's office, they were included in the venire and selected. Only after their selection was the court made aware of their legitimate hardships, requiring that they be excused. This resulted in a shortfall of two jurors and an alternate. To remedy this shortfall, by agreement of the court and counsel, venire members who had been dismissed as unnecessary were recalled and tendered, resulting in the seating of Juror 38. Defendant argues that he previously had not raised a cause challenge as to Juror 38, because at the time he made his challenges, the court needed only two alternates from venire members 33 through 40, and he anticipated the court would never reach Juror 38. He further alleges that the cause challenge would have been successful if raised.

         The government opposes the motion, arguing that defense counsel is mischaracterizing Juror 31's testimony, and that when the totality of the examination of Juror 31 is considered, the court's ruling denying the motion to strike her for cause was justified.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         In deciding whether to strike a potential juror for cause based on bias, "it is the adversary seeking exclusion who must demonstrate, through questioning, that the potential juror lacks impartiality. It is then the trial judge's duty to determine whether the challenge is proper." Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 423 (1985)(internal citation omitted). The standard applied in making that determination is "whether the juror's views would prevent or substantially impair the performance of his duties as a juror in accordance with his instructions and his oath." Id. at 424 (internal quotation omitted). The judgment as to “whether a venireman is biased ... is based upon determinations of demeanor and credibility that are peculiarly within a trial judge's province." Uttecht v. Brown, 551 U.S. 1, 7 (2007).

         DISCUSSION

         At the beginning of voir dire, Juror 31 agreed that she could put aside feelings of prejudice, sympathy, or passion and decide the cose solely on the evidence presented. Tr., p. 11. When questioned individually, her relevant testimony was as follows:

A: I do not gamble.
Q: And do you have a particular attitude toward those who do?
A: I think it's a silly way to spend your money, but that's what you choose to do. That's on you. But I mean I've had family members in the past that have had issues with gambling.
Q: In other words, you've had people who perhaps do it and have caused problems -- A: Yes.
Q: -- for their families?
A: Correct.
Q: How do you view gambling? I mean is it something -- Again, I can't look into your brain. But is it something you view as wrong, immoral, unethical? What?
A: I don't think it's so much immoral or unethical. I just -- Again, I don't agree with it. I just think it's silly, a way to throw your money away, personally.
Q: Would it affect the way you judge somebody who you will learn is an avid gambler?
A: Possibly.
Q: Okay. I appreciate your honesty. I mean if you say "possibly," you're leaving the possibility that it could affect you in an ...

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