Dennis Paris, also known as Rahmyti, Defendant-Appellant. Reset A A Font size: September 17, Before: 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. 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. 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 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.
From at least until his arrest in , Paris 22 forced or induced teenage girls and young women to engage in sex 1 with men for money. Paris operated his prostitution business in 2 and around Hartford, and recruited his victims to work for him as 3 prostitutes from around Hartford and as far away as New 4 Hampshire. In , Paris employed a sixteen-year old girl who had 11 run away from home as a prostitute for about two weeks.
When she 12 told Paris her age after she began working for him, he told her 13 to say that she was nineteen if she were asked her age. In late , Paris began using two eighteen-year old 15 girls as prostitutes. Although he paid them at first, eventually 16 he held them against their will and exploited their addiction to 17 heroin. He raped both of them, used force and intimidation 18 against both of them, and physically and psychologically abused 19 them.
Paris's prostitution business ended in June when 21 he was arrested by the Hartford Police for violating the terms of 22 his probation imposed for unrelated crimes. Following his 1 arrest, one of Paris's victims left the motel where he had been 2 forcing her to stay and tried to work as a prostitute on the 3 street. She was arrested and the ensuing investigation led to 4 the arrest and conviction of Paris and others on multiple sex 5 trafficking and related charges.
Proceedings Below Paris was indicted, with others, for conspiracy to use an interstate facility to promote prostitution 18 U. 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, , defense counsel explained why he intended to exercise his peremptory challenges to strike women from the jury: My objective here is to get as many male jurors on the jury as I can, because I think that they will be fairer to Mr.
Paris than female jurors will be. After all challenges for cause were resolved, thirty-six prospective jurors remained. The district court randomly selected twenty-eight-fifteen men and thirteen women-for the initial peremptory challenge phase. Paris used his first four peremptory challenges to strike women. Following Paris's fourth strike, the Government raised a Batson challenge and argued that Paris's openly expressed intention to strike women from the jury combined with his four straight strikes of female jurors and the lack of a legitimate reason for excluding them established a prima facie case of impermissible gender discrimination.
Defense counsel then conceded that gender was at least part of the reason for his peremptory challenges: This small perception is the kind of thing that we use when we're picking jurors and it confirms what I know, [which] is that women will approach this case in a different manner than men.
The district court then ruled that gender-based peremptory challenges violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U. Alabama, the Court finds that Mr. Paris may not exercise peremptory challenges based on gender. When Paris articulated non-gender-based reasons for those challenges, the Government withdrew its Batson challenge as to one of Paris's strikes and the district court accepted Paris's reasons for his remaining strikes. Accordingly, the district court allowed Paris's strikes to stand.
Paris used his next two peremptory challenges against prospective female jurors, and then asked the district court to reconsider its ruling forbidding gender-based challenges. After the district court reiterated its ruling that Paris could not exercise peremptory challenges based on gender, Paris used his seventh and eighth peremptory challenges to strike a man and a woman.
At that point, defense counsel raised a Batson challenge on behalf of Paris: It's hard to believe that [the Government has] not taken into account gender in exercising each of the four peremptories that they have against males.
In particular, the Government pointed out that Paris's Batson challenge was based on nothing more than the fact that the Government used its first four challenges against men. Unlike Paris, the Government never expressed any intention to strike jurors on the basis of gender. In response, Paris argued that the nature of the case also raised an inference of improper gender bias by the Government.
Paris then reiterated that he would have used his seventh peremptory challenge against a woman if he had been permitted to consider gender. In the end, the jury consisted of eight men and four women. On June 14, , after seven days of evidence and one day of deliberation, the jury convicted Paris on all pending counts.
On October 14, , the district court sentenced Paris principally to thirty years' imprisonment. We address each issue in turn. Gender-Based Peremptory Challenges The district court's holding that a defendant's use of gender-based peremptory challenges in a criminal case violates the Constitution presents a question of law that we review de novo. See United States v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court held that the Equal Protection Clause forbids a prosecutor from exercising peremptory challenges based on race.
In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court considered the right of a defendant in a criminal case to a fair trial as well as the rights of potential jurors to serve on the jury and the public's perception of the jury system.
The Supreme Court extended the prohibition against race-based peremptory challenges to strikes by defendants in criminal cases in Georgia v. A few years later, the Supreme Court held in J. Alabama that peremptory challenges based on gender by a defendant in a civil case are unconstitutional. Paris correctly notes that neither the Supreme Court nor the Second Circuit has decided a case in which a defendant in a criminal case sought to exercise gender-based peremptory challenges.
We know that like race, gender matters. Paris also argues that gender classifications are reviewed under a lower standard of scrutiny than race-based classifications, and defends his gender-based peremptory challenges on the ground that his interest in eliminating biased jurors outweighed any harm caused by striking female members of the panel.
We reject Paris's arguments, and hold that the Constitution bars a defendant in a criminal case from exercising peremptory challenges based on gender, for the following reasons: There is no principled basis for distinguishing between civil and criminal cases for these purposes, or between the exercise of a peremptory strike by the government and a defendant.
Second, Paris's arguments as to the distinctions between race and gender for purposes of a Batson analysis were considered and rejected by the Supreme Court in J. There, the State of Alabama, acting on behalf of the mother of a child born out of wedlock, sought to strike male jurors from a trial to determine the identity of the child's father. Third, although neither the Supreme Court nor this Court has explicitly ruled on the use of gender-based peremptory challenges by a defendant in a criminal case, three Circuits have held that the Constitution's equal protection guarantees bar defendants in criminal cases from striking potential jurors on the basis of gender.
And it applies to peremptory challenges by the government and by criminal defendants. De Gross, F. Moreover, as noted, the Supreme Court has concluded as much in dictum. See United States v.. In short, the district court correctly ruled that Paris could not exercise peremptory challenges based on gender. That rule applies whether the government or the defendant is exercising the peremptory challenge, and whether the case is criminal or civil in nature.
The Claim of Gender Discrimination By The Government Paris argues that the district court erred when it held that he had failed to make out a prima facie showing of discrimination by the Government. We discuss the standard of review to be applied to a district court's rejection of a Batson challenge on this basis and we then consider the district court's rejection of Paris's challenge to the Government's exercise of its peremptory strikes.
Batson's Burden-Shifting Framework When a party raises a Batson challenge, the trial court uses a three-part burden-shifting framework to assess whether the challenged peremptory strike is based on an impermissible discriminatory motive. See Batson, U. First, the objecting party must make a prima facie case that opposing counsel exercised a peremptory challenge on the basis of a protected class.
New York, U. To establish a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination, the objecting party must show that the other party challenged members of a specific group and that the totality of the circumstances raises an inference of discriminatory motive.
Second, if a prima facie case is established, the burden shifts to the challenged party to present a nondiscriminatory reason for striking the jurors in question.
At this stage, proffered explanations are deemed valid unless discriminatory intent is inherent in the challenged party's explanation. Finally, if a valid reason is articulated, the trial court considers the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the objecting party has carried its burden of proving purposeful discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence. Standard of Review This Circuit has not ruled on the standard of review to be applied to a district court's determination whether a party has met the first prong of the Batson analysis by showing a prima facie case of discrimination.
Other circuits have split on the question, dividing on whether the determination is subject to clear error or de novo review. The question whether a prima facie case of discrimination has been shown presents a mixed question of law and fact.
The trial court is entitled to some deference, as there clearly is an element of fact-finding to the determination: While one could fairly argue that the determination of a Batson prima facie case could be subject to a two-step review-clear error for factual findings and de novo for rulings of law-in this context the inquiries often are not clearly delineated.
Accordingly, we conclude that the better course is to apply an abuse of discretion standard of review. Of course, the exercise of discretion based on clearly erroneous facts or incorrect rulings of law would necessarily constitute an abuse of discretion.
Application We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that Paris had failed to show a prima facie case of discrimination under Batson. Paris's challenge was based on nothing more than the Government's exercise of its first four peremptory challenges against men. In certain circumstances, a pattern of peremptory challenges alone may give rise to an inference of impermissible discrimination.
Here, however, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the Government's pattern of four strikes in a row against men did not, by itself, establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination. First, at the start of the peremptory challenge stage, more than half of the prospective jurors were men, as there were fifteen men and thirteen women.
Second, Paris who had ten strikes to the Government's six , used seven of his first eight challenges against women, which increased the percentage of men in the jury pool and the statistical likelihood that the Government would use its peremptory challenges against men.
By the time the Government exercised its third and fourth peremptory challenges, the odds were nearly two to one, based just on the numbers, that a male juror would be stricken. Third, although Paris's counsel had announced that he was going to strike women jurors because of their gender, the Government had made no such statement about male jurors. District courts have broad latitude to consider the totality of the circumstances when determining whether a party has raised an inference of discrimination.