A federal judge in Brooklyn became infuriated with a potential juror this week after she made racist comments about blacks and Latinos and called New York City police lazy, in what some in the courtroom viewed as an attempt to evade jury duty. Instead, the judge ordered her to keep coming to court indefinitely.
However, he later relented, releasing the woman after a day of duty in which she sat alone in a holding tank. He allowed her to sneak out the back door to avoid the media.
The potential juror's responses on the jury questionnaire raised the ire of U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis.
After reading through her questionnaire and seeing the disparaging remarks, Garaufis told the woman, "This is an outrage, and so are you!"
The identity of Juror No. 799 has not been released, but public court records revealed that she is in her 20s, lives in Brooklyn, is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Asian descent who works for a large garment production company.
The woman has been dismissed from the death penalty trial of alleged mob boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, but officials initially said she could serve as a juror in another trial.
"I have 18 years on the job and I've seen every excuse in the book," said Anthony Frisolone, the court reporter who took transcriptions of the proceedings. "It's deplorable that people try this stuff. I find it offensive."
It's unclear whether Juror No. 799 made the statements in her questionnaire because she was trying to duck jury duty or if she really had such beliefs. Garaufis' law clerk, John Fitzpatrick, said the judge was unable to comment on the issue or elaborate on how long the juror might be required to stay on jury duty.
A court transcript revealed the woman's dislike for the NYPD and for blacks, Latinos and Haitians.
"Now, you said your view about the police department. You don't seem to like them, either," Garaufis asked the juror.
"Yes," the juror said. "They abuse the system. ... I've seen it on the streets and I've seen them with traffic and--"
"And they're lazy?" Garaufis asked.
"I think so," the juror said.
Frisolone explained that jurors selected for anonymous juries are required to answer a long questionnaire of more than 50 pages. Based on their answers, attorneys for the prosecution and defense try to weed out prejudicial jurors.
"You don't know," Frisolone said of whether the woman was trying to get off of jury duty. "The judge has seen enough questionnaires in his time that he can probably tell."
Jurors are asked to list three people they least admire. Juror No. 799 wrote "African-Americans, Hispanics and Haitians."
Garaufis questioned her about it.
"You were asked the three people you least admire," he said, "not half of the population of New York City. Did you understand that?"
"Yes," the juror said.
"So why did you put down that you least admired African-Americans, Hispanics, and Haitians?" Garaufis asked.
"Because every time when there's a news it's always about them and they always commit crimes," the juror said.
He then asked her about another part of her questionnaire in which she said a relative of hers had been a member of the Chinese Ghost Shadows gang and had been serving time in prison for murder.
"Why didn't you put Asians down also?" the judge asked about the groups she least admired.
Her reply: "Maybe I should have."