State v. Farokhrany
Case #: A146723
De Muniz, S.J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; and Nakamoto, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A146723.pdf
Criminal Procedure: When prosecutors mention rape laws of the Middle East during voir dire in a case where the defendant is a Muslim from the Middle East, the court must grant a curative instruction to ensure the jury does not impermissible consider race and religion during deliberations.
Defendant appealed conviction for a number of crimes. During voir dire, the prosecutor asked jurors for their views on the State calling only one witness to prove a fact. The prosecutor contrasted this with a scenario from the Middle East where rape victims must call five male witnesses to prove rape. Later, outside the presence of the jury, Defendant asked for a curative instruction indicating that Defendant's race, religion, or ethnicity was not to be used against him in reaching a verdict, and that this scenario was only an illustration. The court denied giving a curative instruction. Defendant appealed, arguing that he was denied his right to a fair trial because the jury was focused on issues regarding rape in Saudi Arabia or Iran. Further, since Defendant is of Iranian decent, the jury may have elicited a verdict based on his ancestry or religion. Article 1, Section 11 of the Oregon Constitution guarantees an individual the right to an impartial jury. The Court held the trial court abused its discretion by failing to include the curative instruction because a reasonable juror could identify Defendant as of Muslim religion, or Iranian or Saudi decent. The State's comments called jurors’ attention to Defendant's ethnicity or religion, and ideas outside the evidence when making their decision. Reversed and remanded.