Jury dress code violated defendants' rights, lawyers say in new-trial motion

Two defendants deserve a new trial because courthouse security officers turned away a number of prospective jurors for failing to meet the dress code, lawyers say in a motion filed Friday in federal court in Orlando.

The lawyers filed the motion on behalf of defendants Jim Sotolongo and Stephanie Musselwhite, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. The two mortgage-fraud defendants were convicted of conspiracy against the United States and defrauding banks on April 28, the story says.

The motion, filed by lawyers John Bergendahl and Bruce Zimet, claims a violation of their clients’ Sixth Amendment rights.

Potential jurors are informed in a brochure titled “United States Federal Jury Service” that “proper attire includes coat and tie for men and similarly appropriate attire for women. No jeans, polo shirts or sneakers.”

The lawyers say some people may not be able to adhere to the dress code because of economic or religious reasons, or because they need to wear tennis shoes for medical reasons, according to the story. Others may choose to dress according to the “accepted fashion norms of a racial minority,” the motion says. There were no black jurors on the panel that heard the case. Sotolongo and Musselwhite are white.

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