HISPANIC BAIL BONDSMAN SEATED AFTER BEING DISMISSED BY PROSECUTORS
By JOSH KOVNER
April 13, 2010
Two jurors were selected Monday in Mayor Eddie A. Perez's bribery and larceny trial, including a Hispanic bail bondsman whose dismissal from the panel by prosecutors was successfully blocked by the mayor's lawyers.
Four more regular jurors and three alternates still must be selected. The felony corruption trial is set to start May 12 and is expected to run six weeks.
Perez, 53, is Hartford's first Hispanic mayor. Defense lawyers Hubert Santos and Hope Seeley have argued in court papers that a persistent lack of minority representation in Hartford jury pools could deprive the three-term mayor of a fair trial. They reacted quickly Monday afternoon when prosecutors Chris Alexy and Michael Gailor excused the Hispanic prospective juror, a manager of a phone store and a part-time bondsman, after questioning. The man, in his 20s, is a single father of two children.
Alexy told Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey that he excused the man because of his association with criminal defendants and the fact that he said he had friends who had been charged with crimes.
Santos and Seeley raised a "Batson" challenge, named for the U.S. Supreme Court case that resulted in a prohibition against prosecutors dismissing jurors based solely on race.
"This juror is Hispanic," Santos told Dewey. "Getting representatives from minority groups is difficult, particularly in a trial of extended length. He's intelligent, he grew up in Hartford. ... I don't think the state's explanation is adequate.
"He said he didn't favor the prosecution or the defense. He gave a neutral answer when asked if he had an opinion on the criminal justice system. I'm going to seat this juror," Dewey said.
She said the man would not be able to process bail bonds or do any bail-related work during the trial.
As he did with all the prospective jurors he questioned Monday, Santos asked the man if he thought all politicians were crooked.
"I don't think like that," the man replied.
"And you could give my client a fair shake?" Santos asked.
"Correct," the man said.
The other juror chosen Monday was white, a married mother of two from Canton who is a longtime paralegal and office administrator. She is now looking for work.
"Do you have any views one way or the other about Hartford?" Santos asked the woman.
"We don't go over the mountain much," she said. "Hartford has the potential to be a great city, but right now there's not a lot going on."
"But you're not afraid of it," Santos said.
"No," she said. "There's not enough of interest to bring me in, beyond a game at the XL Center."
Perez, 53, is charged with receiving a bribe, fabricating physical evidence, and conspiracy to fabricate physical evidence. He is accused of accepting free or discounted work on his home from a developer - family friend Carlos Costa - who has received millions of dollars in city contracts.
He also is charged with criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and coercion on charges that he allowed political power broker Abraham Giles to operate parking lots at bargain-basement rents, in the absence of valid contracts with the city. In return, investigators said, Giles, a former Perez adversary, threw his political weight behind the mayor.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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