A state appeals court granted a new trial Monday for a man accused of killing his roommate in his wheelchair in 2014 after the prosecution took the unusual step of running a background check on a prospective juror who was black.
The appellate court found that the trial judge failed to properly investigate whether implicit bias was at the root of the prosecutor’s decision, which ultimately resulted in the juror’s arrest just outside the courtroom doors because he was the subject of a municipal warrant.
The issue of running background checks on a specific juror has never come before higher courts in New Jersey, the judges wrote in their decision.
In addition to criticizing the actions of both the judge and the prosecution, the appellate court noted that having jurors arrested in the middle of choosing a jury is a pretty good way to discourage people from responding to their jury duty summons.
The now-inmate granted a new trial, Edwin Andujar, 54, had been convicted on murder and weapons charges in 2017 for killing his roommate, Thomas Parent, 59. Superior Court Judge Michael Ravin sentenced him to 45 years in prison, acknowledging he would likely die in prison.
Andujar’s attorney appealed his conviction, arguing, among other things, that the assistant prosecutor’s background check which led to the juror’s arrest was a way to get around the court’s rules that a prosecutor cannot strike someone from the jury pool based on race. FULL ARTICLE