United States v. Lawrence

Decision Date09 August 2021
Docket Number21 Cr. 127 (PGG)
Citation553 F.Supp.3d 131
Parties UNITED STATES of America, v. Andrew LAWRENCE, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Andrew Wesley Jones, Assistant US Attorney, DOJ-USAO, New York, NY, for United States of America.

Sylvie Jill Levine, Public Defender, Federal Defenders of New York, New York, NY, for Defendant.



Defendant Andrew Lawrence is charged with felon in possession, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g). He has moved to dismiss on the grounds that the grand jury venire that returned the Indictment was not drawn from a fair cross-section of the community, in violation of the Sixth Amendment and the Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968 (the "JSSA"). For the reasons stated below, Lawrence's motion will be denied.


On December 1, 2020, Lawrence was arrested in connection with an assault that occurred several months earlier in the Bronx. (Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 1) ¶¶ 1, 3-5) In a search incident to arrest, Lawrence was found to be in possession of a 9 mm. semi-automatic handgun. (Id. ¶ 5(c)) In July 2015, Lawrence was convicted of attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell in the third degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 220.16. This offense is a felony. (Id. ¶ 9)

On February 25, 2021, Lawrence was charged with knowing possession of a firearm following a felony conviction, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g). (Indictment (Dkt. No. 5))


On March 29, 2021, Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the grand jury that indicted him does not reflect a fair cross-section of the community, because Blacks and Latinos are underrepresented in the Southern District of New York's jury pool. According to Lawrence, this alleged underrepresentation is a product of this District's juror selection process. (See Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 13)) Lawrence contends that the juror selection process violates the Sixth Amendment and the JSSA.1 (Dkt. No. 12)


The JSSA sets forth requirements that all federal district courts must follow in selecting jurors to serve on grand and petit juries. The JSSA provides that

all litigants in Federal courts entitled to trial by jury shall have the right to grand and petit juries selected at random from a fair cross section of the community in the district or division wherein the court convenes.... [A]ll citizens shall have the opportunity to be considered for service on grand and petit juries ... and shall have an obligation to serve as jurors when summoned for that purpose. No citizen shall be excluded from service as a grand or petit juror ... on account of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status.

28 U.S.C. §§ 1861 - 62. The JSSA requires federal district courts to "devise and place into operation a written plan for random selection of grand and petit jurors that shall be designed to achieve" the JSSA's objectives. Id. § 1863(a).

Each district's juror selection plan must, inter alia,

(1) "establish a jury commission, or authorize the clerk of the court, to manage the jury selection process";
(2) "specify whether the names of prospective jurors shall be selected from the voter registration lists or the lists of actual voters of the political subdivisions within the district or division ... [and] prescribe some other source or sources of names in addition to voter lists where necessary to foster the policy and protect the rights secured by sections 1861 and 1862 of this title";
(3) "specify detailed procedures to be followed by the jury commission or clerk in selecting names [of prospective jurors that are] ... designed to ensure the random selection of a fair cross section of the persons residing in the community in the district or division wherein the court convenes. They shall ensure that names of persons residing in each of the counties, parishes, or similar political subdivisions within the judicial district or division are placed in a master jury wheel; and shall ensure that each county, parish, or similar political subdivision within the district or division is substantially proportionally represented in the master jury wheel for that judicial district, division, or combination of divisions";
(4) "provide for a master jury wheel (or a device similar in purpose and function) into which the names of those randomly selected shall be placed.... The plan shall provide for periodic emptying and refilling of the master jury wheel at specified times, the interval for which shall not exceed four years";
(5) "specify those groups of persons or occupational classes whose members shall, on individual request therefor, be excused from jury service"; [and]
(8) "specify the procedures to be followed by the clerk or jury commission in assigning persons whose names have been drawn from the qualified jury wheel to grand and petit jury panels."

Id. § 1863(b)(1)-(8).

In accordance with the JSSA's requirements, this District established a juror selection plan in 1983. (See Am. Plan for the Random Selection of Grand and Petit Jurors in S.D.N.Y. (the "Jury Plan") (Dkt. No. 13-1) Article XII) Last amended in January 2009, the Jury Plan covers New York, Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Sullivan, Orange, and Rockland counties, and provides that names shall be randomly selected from voter registration lists for these eight counties. (Id. Articles III(A), XIII) The master jury wheel is emptied and refilled "by not later than September 1 following the date of each Presidential Election." (Id. Article III(B))

The master jury wheel for the Manhattan courthouses includes residents from New York, Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties; the master jury wheel for the White Plains courthouse includes residents from Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, and Dutchess counties. (Id. Article III(C)) Names are initially drawn from each county in numbers that "reasonably reflect the relative number of registered voters in each county within the respective Master Jury Wheels," and names are added to the master jury wheels "[f]rom time to time thereafter, as the Chief Judge directs," in the same random and proportional manner as the initial selection. (Id. Articles III(A)-(B))

"Once or twice each year, or more frequently, if necessary, at times to be determined by the Chief Judge, the Clerk shall draw from the Master Wheels the names and addresses of persons to whom questionnaires will be sent for the purpose of examining their qualifications and availability for jury service." (Id. Article III(D)) A person is qualified to serve on grand and petit juries unless he or she

(1) [i]s not a citizen of the United States eighteen years old who has resided for a period of one year within the judicial district;
(2) [i]s unable to read, write, and understand the English language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to fill out satisfactorily the juror qualification form;
(3) [i]s unable to speak the English language;
(4) [i]s incapable, by reason of mental or physical infirmity, to render satisfactory jury service; or
(5) [h]as a charge pending for the commission of, or has been convicted in a State or Federal court [of], a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and his civil rights have not been restored.

(Id. Article VII; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1865(b) )

The following persons may be excused from jury service or deferred upon request:

(1) Persons over 70 years of age;
(2) Persons having legal custody and active daily care of a child or children under the age of 12 years; or who are essential to the daily care of aged or infirm persons;
(3) Persons who have satisfactorily served as grand jurors or as petit jurors in a State or Federal court within the past 4 years;
(4) Volunteer safety personnel who serve without compensation as firefighters or members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew for a public agency;
(5) Persons as to whom a judge finds, for reasons other than the foregoing, that jury service would constitute undue hardship or extreme inconvenience.

(Id. Article VI)

Based on questionnaires completed by prospective jurors, jury wheels are populated with the names and addresses of all eligible jurors and then separated into a Manhattan qualified wheel and a White Plains qualified wheel, using the same county divisions as the master wheels. (Id. Articles III(D), IV(B)) Jurors from Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties are "divided between" the Manhattan and White Plains qualified wheels in a manner that "reasonably reflect[s] the relative number of registered voters in each county within the respective Master Jury Wheels." (Id. Article IV(B)) At all times, the qualified wheels must contain at least 500 names. (Id. Article IV(A))

In selecting jurors for grand or petit jury panels, the Clerk of Court publicly draws from the qualified wheels, at random, the names of "as many persons as appear to be needed for grand or petit juries." (Id. Article IV(C)) The Clerk then "randomly assign[s] jurors to jury panels for individual trial parts and grand juries, as needed." (Id. ) A summons is issued to each selected person at that person's "usual residence or business address" by first class, certified, or registered mail. (Id. Article IV(D))


"The Sixth Amendment secures to criminal defendants the right to be tried by an impartial jury drawn from sources reflecting a fair cross section of the community." Berghuis v. Smith, 559 U.S. 314, 319, 130 S.Ct. 1382, 176 L.Ed.2d 249 (2010).

In Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 ... (1979), [the U.S. Supreme] Court described three showings a criminal defendant must make to establish a prima facie violation of the Sixth Amendment's fair-cross-section requirement. He or she must show: "(1) that the group alleged to be excluded is a ‘distinctive’ group in the community; (2) that the representation of this group in venires from which juries are

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