United States of America v. Nieves, No. 21-1901 (2d Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Defendant appealed the district court’s judgment sentencing him to 36 months in prison following his conviction by a jury of witness retaliation. Defendant challenged the manner in which the district court conducted jury selection, arguing primarily that the district court neglected to adequately screen prospective jurors for bias against gang members and that the voir dire process was too abbreviated to allow for informed peremptory and for-cause challenges.
The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for a new trial. The court explained that, under these circumstances, the district court exceeded its discretion by failing to sufficiently account for the risk of gang-related bias among prospective jurors. The court explained that the district court’s failure on voir dire to explore or to take other steps specifically to counter such potential prejudice unfairly deprived Defendant of the opportunity to unearth a pervasive bias relevant to an issue pivotal to the government’s case against him. Accordingly, the court held that the district court abused its discretion.