Jurors Do Not Need To Be Able To Read And Write

The qualifications to be a juror are minimal. A juror must:

  1. Be a citizen of the United States, and a resident of the county,
  2. Be not less than eighteen years of age,
  3. Not have been convicted of a felony, and
  4. Be able to understand and communicate in the English language.

(Judiciary Law § 510 [4])

The ability to “understand and communicate in the English language” does not include the ability to read and write. So held the Fourth Department last Friday in People v Arguinzoni, 2008 NY Slip Op 01204. In that case, the defendant made a challenge for cause to a prospective juror on the ground that the juror could not read and write. The Fourth Department held that the trial court properly denied the challenge for cause as Judiciary Law § 510 [4] only mentioned “communicate.” In addition, the Fourth Department added that even if the trial court had erred in denying defendant’s challenge for cause, the error would not require reversal because defendant had not exhausted his peremptory challenges and he did not peremptorily challenge that prospective juror.

I wonder if the result would have been the same if the prospective juror could read and write English, but could not speak it.

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