A U.S. district judge nominated by former President Barack Obama has dismissed a case against a shooting suspect from the Bronx in New York City over a lack of “diversity” in the jury.
In her ruling, Judge Analisa Torres agreed with William Scott, the defendant, after he argued that there were not enough black and Hispanic people in the jury pool after an indictment was returned against him a year ago this month.
Charged in the White Plains division of the Southern District of New York, Scott was allegedly in possession of ammunition linked to a shooting in the Bronx, the New York Post reported.
Scott argued through his attorney that since he was charged in the White Plains district and not the more diverse Manhattan district, potential jurors from southern counties were excluded by prosecutors, thus prejudicing the outcome.
“Defendant has produced clear statistical evidence of underrepresentation of Black and Latinx individuals in the pool from which his grand jury was drawn, and a jury selection process that was susceptible to abuse,” the judge wrote.
The ruling also noted that prosecutors charged Scott in White Plains “amidst a global pandemic that suspended grand juries across the country.”
Nevertheless, according to the judge, prosecutors didn’t argue that a grand jury in Manhattan was not available and said a separate one was convened in the Manhattan district a few days before Scott was indicted.
The decision from Torres was the first indictment dismissed after prosecutors started charging city cases in the White Plains division as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a source told The Post.
While Scott’s indictment was vacated immediately following Torres’ opinion, prosecutors can still seek another indictment against him with 60 days if they so choose.
As for Torres, she made headlines earlier this year when she dismissed charges against former Trump presidential counselor Steve Bannon after he was pardoned following his indictment related to allegations of fraud in connection with a private entity that built portions of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen,” the White House said at the time.
Torres dismissed the indictment against Bannon in May when she “resolved an unusual dispute between prosecutors and Bannon over how to document Trump’s pardon of the former White House advisor in court records,” the New York Daily News reported.
“The Court concludes…that the Pardon is valid, and that dismissal of the Indictment is the proper course,” Torres wrote in her seven-page ruling, while going on to suggest Bannon may have been guilty of defrauding donors to the wall project.
“Pardon implies guilt. If there be no guilt, there is no ground for forgiveness. It is an appeal to executive clemency. It is asked as a matter of favor to the guilty. It is granted not of right but of grace. A party is acquitted on the ground of innocence; he is pardoned through favor,” she wrote, adding: “This venerable principle remains true in the twenty-first century.”
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan sought to have Torres only “administratively terminate” Bannon’s indictment, which his lawyers argued would leave him open to future indictments on the same grounds.
“Mr. Bannon is presumed innocent until someone finds him guilty and no one has found him guilty,” said Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, at the time.
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