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Judge says Wendy’s jury did not exclude Hispanics

A Queens judge has rejected a defense motion that the jury system that led to the indictment of Wendy’s massacre suspect John Taylor was fundamentally biased.

Attorneys for Taylor had argued that his indictment should be thrown out because they contended Hispanics were systematically excluded from the Queens jury pool.

But State Supreme Court Judge Steven Fisher ruled against the defense on May 22 in his Kew Gardens courtroom, clearing the way for jury selection for Taylor’s trial to begin in September.

Taylor, 38, of Lefrak City, is accused of planning and carrying out the execution-style murder of five employees and the shooting of two others at the former Wendy’s on Main Street in Flushing on May 24, 2000, prosecutors contend. Taylor could face the death penalty if convicted.

Craig Godineaux, 32, of Jamaica, is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole after he pleaded guilty to the murders in February 2001. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown decided not to pursue the death penalty against Godineaux after his lawyer argued that Godineaux was mentally retarded.

Fisher’s decision marked the second time he had chosen to reject a major defense motion in the case. In March, Fisher decided to allow Taylor’s confession of the massacre into evidence. The defense had argued that Taylor was denied access to his attorney and had been beaten before giving the confession.

In January, Queens College sociology professor Andrew Beveridge had testified for the defense that the Queens pool of jurors systematically excluded Hispanics.

Taylor was indicted twice on charges stemming from the massacre. In June 2000, he was charged with killing one of the Wendy’s employees. He was later hit with a supplemental indictment in May 2001 in which he was charged with masterminding all five murders.

Since the indictments drew from the pool of jurors that Beveridge had found flawed, the defense had hoped that both could be thrown out.

John Youngblood, Taylor’s attorney from the Capital Defender’s Office, said Fisher did not let the defense team fully analyze problems in jury pools because the judge had not given the defense access to lists of qualified jurors in Queens.

“The testimony did not clear up the challenges and did not clear up the problems we saw,” he said.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, however, thought the judge’s decision reflected a sound jury selection process.

“The decision recognized Queens County’s unique ethnic composition and diversity and its successful efforts to insure that all of its citizens have the opportunity to participate in the judicial process,” Brown said in an issued statement.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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