May 3, 2016
W. Falk, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).
R. Lockwood, senior assistant state’s attorney, with
whom, on the brief, was Brian Preleski, state’s
attorney, for the appellee (state).
S. Nagy, assistant public defender, and Jasmine Gonzales Rose
filed a brief as amicus curiae.
Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, McDonald, Espinosa,
Robinson and Vertefeuille, Js. [*]
dispositive issue in this certified appeal is whether a trial
court’s purportedly improper exclusion of a prospective
juror for cause on the ground that he was ‘‘not
able to speak and understand the English
language’’ within the meaning of General Statutes
§ 51-217 (a) (3) constitutes per se reversible error.
The defendant, Jeffrey P. Gould, appeals from the judgment of
the Appellate Court affirming the trial court’s
judgment of conviction, in light of its conclusion that the
trial court’s improper exclusion of a venireperson on
this basis was not prejudicial. The defendant contends that,
because the assessment of the English language skills and
accents of nonnative speakers may reflect implicit or
unconscious bias relating to ancestry or national origin, the
improper exclusion of a prospective juror on the basis of
such factors should be deemed commensurate with the improper
exclusion of a prospective juror on the basis of a suspect
classification, which is subject to automatic reversal. We
conclude that the Appellate Court properly determined that
the trial court’s excusal of the prospective juror for
cause under § 51-217 (a) (3) was subject to reversal
only upon a showing of prejudice.
record reveals the following undisputed facts. The defendant
was brought to trial on a charge of sexual assault in the
first degree. During voir dire, an issue arose regarding the
English proficiency of venireperson E,  whose juror
application revealed a Hispanic surname and listed his
ethnicity as Puerto Rican. After E answered several preliminary
questions, which revealed, among other things, that he had
attended college before being employed as a machinist, the
following colloquy ensued:
‘‘[The Prosecutor]: Have you or anyone close to
you ever been a victim of a crime?
‘‘[The Prosecutor]: And are you comfortable
telling me a little bit about that?
‘‘[E]: Well, kind of-do you want to hear?
‘‘[The Prosecutor]: If you’re comfortable
telling me, yeah, sure.
‘‘[E]: Oh well, one time we are stopped by the
police and they confused me by another person, and they like
put something on me.
‘‘[The Prosecutor]: A guy came and pulled
something on you?
‘‘[E]: Yes, kind of like that.
‘‘[The Prosecutor]: Okay, and what did he pullon
‘‘[E]: I think it was-there was after him one
person and because he cannot get to that person, so he get
close to me and reached to my pocket without me knowing
because I was sitting down. So, when the police came, that
guy told me, hey this guy put something on you. That’s
‘‘[The Prosecutor]: Okay.
‘‘The Court: If I can just interrupt for a
moment? [Sir], English is not your first language is it?
‘‘The Court: Do you have any difficulty