December 5, 2018 / 2:16 AM / 11 days ago

New York D.A. won't appeal state ruling on jury trials for noncitizens

A view of the New York State Court of Appeals building is seen in Albany, New York October 12, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Pennink (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The district attorney in New York City’s Bronx County decided not to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the state’s highest court guaranteeing noncitizens in the city charged with minor crimes the right to jury trials when convictions could lead to deportation.

Darcel Clark, the district attorney, on Tuesday instead urged state legislators to address issues raised in the Nov. 27 decision, and perhaps change state law to ensure jury trials for all residents charged with Class B misdemeanors.

The state Court of Appeals ruled 5-2 that the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution required jury trials for noncitizens charged with crimes carrying maximum prison terms of six months or less, even for minor offenses.

Its decision meant a new trial for Saylor Suazo, a Honduran citizen whose “visa overstay” status made him deportable, and who had been convicted in a bench trial on misdemeanor charges of striking and choking the mother of his children.

The decision coincided with moves by U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration was not involved in the case, to speed up deportations and tighten U.S. borders.

Clark, in an emailed statement, said the ruling “creates a new burden for noncitizens to reveal their immigration status and establish the risk of deportation in order to take advantage of this newly-announced right to a jury trial,” and requires judges to predict the outcomes of civil deportation proceedings for defendants who appear before them.

She said legislators should consider extending a state law that gives all New York residents, apart from those in New York City, a right to jury trials for Class B misdemeanors.

“This statute was enacted decades ago to promote judicial economy,” Clark said. “As misdemeanor cases have decreased some 40 percent in the last five years, and deportation looms as a consequence for some defendants, I believe it is time for the legislature to provide jury trials for all New York City residents.”

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