STATE OF NEW JERSEY VS. MARKEES PRUITT
In State v. Pruitt, 430 N.J. Super. 261 (App. Div. 2013) (Pruitt I), we determined that defendant could establish a prima facie Gilmore violation even if there was only one African-American juror on the panel and the prosecutor used a peremptory challenge to excuse that juror. Following the remand ordered in Pruitt I, the trial court held a hearing concerning the prosecutor's reasons for excusing the lone African-American juror. The trial court found that the prosecutor gave a non-discriminatory explanation which was not a pretext to exclude African-Americans from the jury. On this appeal (Pruitt II) we affirmed that decision.
During the remand hearing, defense counsel did not argue that there were allegedly comparable non-African-American jurors whom the prosecutor did not challenge. However, defendant raised the issue on this appeal. Our opinion in Pruitt II emphasizes that failure to raise that issue during the Gilmore hearing, which in this case was the remand hearing, unfairly deprived the prosecutor of the opportunity to explain his reasons for not challenging the allegedly comparable jurors and deprived the trial court of the opportunity to consider those reasons. Although we found the defendant was not entitled to raise his comparison argument for the first time on appeal, we nonetheless reviewed the record de novo and found no basis to disturb the result reached by the trial court.