Supreme Court Reinstates Death Sentence
I believe that jurors should be life-qualified not death-qualified to serve on a capital jury. But, that's not the law.
The Supreme Court today, in an opinion written Justice Anthony Kennedy, reinstated the death sentence of a Washington man whose sentence was overturned because a juror had said he would consider the death penalty only in limited circumstances.
The court, in a 5-4 decision, said that the Washington state judge who presided over the trial of Cal Coburn Brown properly used his discretion to excuse a potential juror who expressed equivocal views about the death penalty.
The juror in question was challenged by prosecutors because he indicated he would impose the death penalty only if the defendant were in the position to kill again. Jurors' options were limited: they could sentence Brown to death or life in prison with no parole.
The text of the opinion is here (pdf). As the 9th Circuit noted in deciding the case differently, the juror did not unequivocally impose the death penalty.
[T]he 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the juror should not have been excused because he said he would consider the death penalty in an appropriate case....
Per Justice Kennedy,
"But where, as here, there is lengthy questioning of a prospective juror and the trial court has supervised a diligent and thoughtful examination), the trial court has broad discretion," Kennedy wrote for the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined the opinion.
Justice John Paul Stevens, in dissent, said:
...the court wiped away earlier decisions that allow death penalty opponents to sit on juries in capital cases, provided they demonstrate they can set aside their beliefs and follow the law.
TChris wrote more on Justice Stevens and his position on the death penalty here.
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