In State v. Andujar, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a murder defendant was denied a fair trial when the prosecution, without Court permission, singled out a Black prospective juror for a background check. Deputy Public Defender Joseph Russo ’86 of the statewide Appellate Section represented the defendant.
According to the New Jersey Law Journal, “Batson‘s promise of eradicating racial discrimination in the jury selection process has proven to be illusory until today’s historic decision by our Supreme Court,” Russo said in reference to 1986 case law.
“The court squarely addressed the devastating consequences of unconscious racial bias, which has been a long-standing problem in New Jersey and throughout the country,” Russo added. “The court recognized that the prosecutor’s implicit bias in this case infected the entire jury selection process, in violation of Mr. Andujar’s fundamental rights.
“Living in a high-crime area or having friends or relatives who have been convicted of crimes are not valid reasons for removal from the jury pool. These reasons, as noted by the court, are often rooted in racial bias,” Russo said.
Russo’s sister Mary Ann Russo-Marfia graduated from the School of Law in 1985. She originally shared the news of her brother’s victory with other alumni on Facebook.