Picking a Death Qualified Jury

Jury selection is set to begin in two state trials this week--Scott Peterson, accused of killing his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son, and Terry Nichols, accused of conspiring to kill approximately 160 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. Nichols was previously convicted in federal court of conspiring to kill federal officers. The state trial is focusing on the other victims.

Jurors in death cases must be death-qualified. How does that work? Here's an inside look.

We think jurors should be life-qualified, rather than death-qualified. The test should be whether they could impose a life sentence even if they find the defendant guilty. But, that's not the law. Nonetheless, skilled capital defense lawyers push the envelope during jury selection to try to do just that -- find the jurors who could give life, no matter how heinous the crime. They want jurors who will listen to their mitigation evidence and reach within themselves to a find a reason to save their client's life.

Death penalty training for defense lawyers is intense. They call it "death camp" -- for good reason. We non-capital defense lawyers call it "G-d's work." We will focus more on this as these and other death life trials progress.

In the meantime, a cool and insightful blog to read to get into the mindset of the defense lawyer is Public Defender Dude.

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