A Schenectady man who allegedly robbed a woman in her home and whose accomplice pointed a gun at a 3-year-old’s head had his 2011 conviction overturned by the state Supreme Court Appellate Division.
Shawn Young, formerly of Becker Street, will get a new trial because his judge did not make sure a prospective juror was impartial during jury selection, said Justice John Egan, Jr. in a decision handed down Thursday.
A jury decided in May 2011 that Young had broken into a woman’s apartment on Mynderse Street in August 2010 with an accomplice who held a gun to a 3-year-old’s head. Two other men were also present — William Davis and Winston Tull — and were ordered to the floor at gunpoint. Young and his partner demanded cocaine and cash and then fled, police said. The accomplice was never identified and remains at large.
Young was convicted of first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and third-degree larceny and sentenced in August 2011 by acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye to 20 years in prison. He maintained his innocence at sentencing and said the reason he couldn’t name an accomplice was because he wasn’t there.
Young, through attorney Cynthia Feathers, appealed the conviction on the basis that Hoye committed “reversible error” during jury selection by denying his lawyer’s challenge to a prospective juror.
During questioning, the juror had said he was “very uncomfortable” about the use of a gun to commit the alleged crime. He was asked if that discomfort would affect his ability to keep an open mind. He responded: “It might. I can’t say for sure what it is, but it’s a concern to me.”
After questioning, Young’s lawyer challenged the juror for cause. He had already used up his right to reject a certain number of potential jurors without providing a reason. The challenge for cause is an attorney’s request to dismiss a potential juror because there is good reason to believe he can’t be fair, unbiased or capable.
Hoye denied the challenge, stating that Young’s lawyer failed to ask any follow-up questions of the juror at the time the juror made the statement. But Egan said Hoye, having heard the juror’s statement, should have either granted the lawyer’s challenge or conducted further questioning of the juror that would have assured he could be impartial.
“As the record demonstrates, no such assurances were even sought — much less obtained — from this particular juror,” Egan wrote in his decision.
The prospective jurors were asked as a group if they could make a decision based solely on the evidence and they responded collectively that they could.
“County Court did not specifically address the concern expressed by [the juror] in any meaningful way or otherwise obtain assurances of his impartiality,” Egan wrote. “Absent such assurances, and given the fact that defendant exhausted his peremptory challenges, the denial of defendant’s challenge for cause constitutes reversible error.”
Presiding Justice Karen K. Peters and justices Michael C. Lynch, Robert S. Rose and Eugene Devine concurred.
Young had previously served time in federal prison for the 1997 daylight heist of the former First National Bank of Scotia branch on Albany Street.