Manhattan Judge Tosses Out Grand Jury Indictment: Pandemic Era Jury Not Racially Diverse Enough
[guest post by JVW]
Fox News and the New York Post (but here I repeat myself) both have an item today about a Manhattan-based judge, Analisa Torres, tossing out an indictment of a Bronx man accused in a 2020 shooting which took place in that borough due to the composition of the grand jury. The details, per Fox:
A federal judge in Manhattan tossed an indictment against a Bronx shooting suspect because of a lack of racial diversity in the White Plains grand jury pool — the first such ruling since city cases were moved to the suburban county amid the pandemic.
Judge Analisa Torres sided with defendant William Scott, who had argued that Black and Hispanic people were underrepresented in the grand jury pool that returned an indictment against him in June of last year.
Scott was charged with possessing ammunition in connection to a shooting in the Bronx, but was charged in the Southern District of New York’s White Plains division.
Seems reasonable, right? I mean, why move a grand jury investigation of a black man from a district court in a place like New York City which is just over 50% “Black and Latinx” (as Judge Torres put it, because of course she would) to one that is 45.4% white and a mere 44.5% black and Hispanic? I mean — hello! — why do you think they named the place White Plains to begin with? It’s getting so that a convicted felon and reputed member of the Bloods who goes by the sobriquet “Ill Will” and has been arrested 25 times since 1999 (all this according to the Post) can’t get a fair shake in Andrew Cuomo’s New York. Fortunately for Ill Will, Judge Torres, a Barack Obama appointee and the daughter and granddaughter of former New York Assembly members (Democrats, naturally), was there to smoke out the bald injustice of it all.
Hang on, though, maybe there is an understandable reason that the grand jury investigation was moved from New York City to White Plains. Was there anything going on over the past year that might have impacted day-to-day operations in the Empire State, especially in the immediate vicinity of the Big Apple? The Post provides us this explanation:
But in a follow-up letter to the judge, prosecutors said they wanted to “correct the factual record” regarding Scott’s indictment in the June 23, 2020, shooting in The Bronx, saying it was the result of a “non-discriminatory exigency” amid the COVID-19 crisis that forced them to seek the charges in White Plains.
At the time, they wrote, “grand jury availability was exceptionally limited – generally, and specifically in Manhattan – due to the pandemic.”
And when prosecutors sought to have Scott indicted on June 30, 2020, “there was no grand jury sitting in Manhattan” and no grand juries were convened between June 26 and July 8, 2020, according to the Monday letter.
Scott “posed a sufficiently serious risk to public safety that it was untenable to delay his prosecution until grand juries were more readily available,” prosecutors Alexandra Rothman and Jim Ligtenberg wrote.
“Accordingly, to indict the instant case expeditiously and to protect public safety, the Government sought an indictment in White Plains, where a grand jury was available,” they said.
The letter also noted that “identical claims” to those made by Scott were recently rejected by three other Manhattan federal judges overseeing unrelated cases.
The Post goes on to report that the ruling by Judge Torres makes no difference in the long run, as prosecutors announced that they have secured a new indictment from a different (and presumably racially acceptable) grand jury, and that the newly-scheduled trial begins in two weeks and will be heard by a judge other than the Honorable Analisa Torres.
Defendants have rights, and it is the duty of the system to honor and protect those rights, but casting doubt upon the fairness of a indictment because it came from an area that has five percent fewer black and Hispanic residents than some other area — and all of this square in the middle of a pandemic — is the sort of mindless virtue signaling while violent crime is surging across your city that really ought to make even the wokest of judges a bit more circumspect in their demands for social justice purity.