The Nevada Supreme Court this week ordered a new trial for a man convicted of multiple sex offenses against children because of the district judge’s misconduct during jury selection.
According to the ruling, Clark County District Judge Richard Scotti cursed and berated, yelled at the potential juror and threatened her, throwing a book against the courtroom wall because she said she couldn’t be impartial in the trial.
Saying that may have seriously discouraged other prospective jurors from answering honestly about their own biases, “we cannot be convinced that an impartial jury was selected under these circumstances where the judge did nothing to alleviate the intimidating atmosphere that he created.”
Jose Azucena was charged with multiple sex offenses against children and the juror in question told the judge she didn’t think she could be unbiased because she had to deal with child abuse and sexual assault in her work as a nurse.
The judge objected saying she didn’t say that the day before adding that, “what we’re not going to have in this jury is people coming in overnight and thinking s--- up and try to make s--- up now so they can get out of the jury.”
“You’re going to completely throw out our entire justice system because you don’t want to be fair and impartial,” he charged, throwing a book against the courtroom wall to emphasize his point.
Defense counsel tried to intervene asking to approach the bench but Scotti refused.
“Go home, all right. I don’t like your attitude,” he told her.
Defense counsel then moved to dismiss the entire jury pool saying the judge’s behavior and language had a “chilling effect” on the rest of the jury. Scotti denied the motion as “ludicrous.”
The opinion by Justices James Hardesty, Lidia Stiglich and Abbi Silver agreed with the defense that the judge’s misconduct interfered with Azucena’s right to a fair and impartial trial.
“Because the judge created an atmosphere of intimidation and did nothing to alleviate the impact of his behavior, we cannot be confident that an impartial jury was selected,” the opinion states.
They ordered a new trial for the defendant.