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United States v. Martinez

September 17, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
RONALD MARTINEZ, BRIAN FORBES, ANTONIO DOVE, ALSO KNOWN AS DONTELL DOVE, ALSO KNOWN AS TONE, JEROME HARGROVE, ALSO KNOWN AS JUNE, WARREN WILLIAMS, CHRISTOPHER FANNING, KAZIMIERZ SULEWSKI, ALSO KNOWN AS KAZ, STEVEN TANUIS, SHANAYA HICKS, DEFENDANTS,
DENNIS PARIS, ALSO KNOWN AS RAHMYTI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Droney, J.) convicting defendant-appellant of sex trafficking crimes.

AFFIRMED.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, Circuit Judge

Argued: July 13, 2010

Before: JACOBS, Chief Judge, and WESLEY and CHIN, Circuit Judges.

In this case, a jury convicted defendant-appellant Dennis Paris of sex trafficking crimes, including sex trafficking of minors and sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. The evidence showed that for more than five years, Paris operated a prostitution business in and around Hartford, Connecticut, exploiting and abusing young women and teenage girls. The district court (Droney, J.) sentenced Paris principally to thirty years' imprisonment.

During the jury selection process, each side raised an objection pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, arguing that the other side had exercised peremptory strikes based on gender. At the outset of jury selection, Paris's counsel stated explicitly that he wanted to strike female jurors because of their gender because he believed that, in light of the nature of the charges, men would be "fairer" to Paris than women. The district court refused the request and prohibited defense counsel from exercising peremptory challenges based on gender. Later in jury selection, after the Government used its first four peremptory strikes against men, Paris objected under Batson. The district court overruled the objection, holding that Paris had not made a prima facie showing that the Government was exercising its peremptory challenges based on gender.

We affirm. We hold that a defendant in a criminal case may not, consistent with the Constitution, exercise peremptory challenges based on gender. Accordingly, the district court correctly barred Paris from doing so. We also affirm the district court's ruling that Paris did not, merely by relying on the fact that the Government's first four strikes were against men, make a prima facie showing that the Government was improperly exercising peremptory challenges based on gender.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

A. The Facts

Construed in the light most favorable to the Government, see United States v. Gomez, 580 F.3d 94, 97 (2d Cir. 2009), the evidence at trial showed the following:

From at least 1999 until his arrest in 2004, Paris forced or induced teenage girls and young women to engage in sex with men for money. Paris operated his prostitution business in and around Hartford, and recruited his victims to work for him as prostitutes from around Hartford and as far away as New Hampshire.

In 1999, Paris induced a fourteen-year old ninth-grader to work for him as a prostitute doing "calls" -- engaging in sexual intercourse with men for money -- in a motel and at customers' homes. Over the course of a year and a half, she did approximately 100 "calls" for Paris.

In 2002, Paris employed a sixteen-year old girl who had run away from home as a prostitute for about two weeks. When she told Paris her age after she began working for him, he told her to say that she was nineteen if she were asked her age.

In late 2003, Paris began using two eighteen-year old girls as prostitutes. Although he paid them at first, eventually he held them against their will and exploited their addiction to heroin. He raped both of them, used force and intimidation against both of them, and physically and psychologically abused them.

Paris's prostitution business ended in June 2004 when he was arrested by the Hartford Police for violating the terms of his probation (imposed for unrelated crimes). Following his arrest, one of Paris's victims left the motel where he had been forcing her to stay and tried to work as a prostitute on the street. She was arrested and the ensuing investigation led to the arrest and conviction of Paris and others on multiple sex trafficking and related charges.

B. Proceedings Below

Paris was indicted, with others, for conspiracy to use an interstate facility to promote prostitution (18 U.S.C. § 371), sex trafficking of a minor (18 U.S.C. § 1591), sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion (18 U.S.C. § 1591), and use of an interstate facility to promote prostitution (18 U.S.C. § 1952(a)(3)).*fn1 He was the only defendant to go to trial.

Before trial, defense counsel submitted written notice to the district court that Paris intended to exercise peremptory challenges on the basis of gender. Shortly after jury selection began on May 23, 2007, defense counsel explained why he intended to exercise his peremptory challenges to strike women from the jury:

[W]omen feel about this case very, very, very differently from men. And . . . probably the major factor in how a juror will approach this case is her gender. And having reached that conclusion, I intend to make gender one of the primary -- one of my primary reasons for striking jurors . . . . I would doubt that I will exercise a peremptory against a male juror. My objective here is to get as many male ...


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