Attorneys: Juror dress code thinned jury pool
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys representing clients convicted in a mortgage fraud case say their clients rights were violated when security guards at Orlando’s federal courthouse turned away prospective jurors because they didn’t meet the dress code.
John Bergendahl and Bruce Zimet are seeking are asking for a new trial in a motion filed Friday, saying their clients’ Sixth Amendment rights were violated.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal (http://bit.ly/1oR7KTb ) reports that a 12-member jury convicted Jim Sotolongo and Stephanie Musselwhite on April 28 of defrauding the United States and financial institutions.
The motion states that “a number of prospective jurors” were turned away from the courthouse because of the way they were dressed.
“During the security screening process, a number of prospective jurors were denied entry to the courthouse because at least in the view of the courthouse security officers, they were not in compliance with the juror dress code,” the motion states.
A brochure given to potential jurors outlines proper attire for court as a coat and tie for men and “similarly appropriate attire for women.” It states that jeans, polo shirts and sneakers are not allowed.
The attorneys argue that certain people may not be able to adhere to the dress code due to economic or religious reasons, or because they choose to dress according to the “accepted fashion norms of a racial minority.” They also argued that some people may have to wear sneakers for medical reasons.
The attorneys also cited other concerns, including there were no black jurors on the final panel and that Sotolongo’s initial guilty plea was rejected by the second judge assigned to the case.
Sotolongo and Musselwhite are scheduled for sentencing on July 28.
Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com