March 24, 2008
Wesley Snipes and the Synder Decision
Wesley Snipes is set for sentencing on April 24, 2008. (see here) Although found not guilty on the majority of counts against him, he was convicted of a couple of misdemeanor tax counts (see here). In addition to sentencing, it is likely that we will see an appeal down the road.
On March 19, 2008, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Synder v. Louisiana, a case that bears little resemblance to Wesley Snipes tax matters as it is a death penalty case. What perhaps might be relevant is that the Court struck down Allen Synder's conviction as a result of how the trial court handled jury strikes by the prosecution. The Court held that the rejection of a Batson claim as to one of the jurors was improper. In Synder, the accused ended up with an all-white jury. (see also Scotus Blog here)
Now lets look at the Snipes trial. Snipes did not even have an opportunity to contest prosecutor's striking of black jurors as there were no blacks on the venire.(see here). It will be interesting to see if the decision in Synder will make the rejection of Snipe's change of venue motion more powerful. (see here). It's not that Snipes was deprived of a chance of the prosecutor or judge making an error in violating Batson. Rather it's the fact that he has no claim whatsoever because of the venue where this case was prosecuted. The prosecutor did the striking by the selection of the venue.
News Update - Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinal story related to Snipes -IRS chases cheaters after figure in Wesley Snipes tax case gives up names
Addendum - Paul Caron's TaxProf Blog here.
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Snyder is simply an application of Batson. Batson does not entitle a defendant to a jury that is racially balanced. Rather, Batson prohibits the attorneys (on both sides) from exercising peremptory strikes for race-based (or gender-based) reasons. Apparently, that didn't happen here. Moreover, the issue needs to be raised at trial or it is waived. Conceivably, if the methodology by which the venire was selected was racially biased, there could be an equal protection or due process problem, but it would not be a Batson or a Snyder problem. Beyond this, one wonders whether Snipes would be well advised to raise the issue. The remedy for a Batson violation is a new trial, which is not something I would recommend if I were advising Snipes.
Posted by: Walter Pickhardt | Mar 25, 2008 6:14:14 AM