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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Questioning Jury about Opposing the Death Peanlty is not Required on Constitutional Grounds

From ap.org: A judge's failure to question jurors who indicated they opposed the death penalty is not reason enough to overturn the convictions of two men in the killing of a police informant, a federal appeals court says.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals encouraged judges to question potential jurors orally about their opposition to the death penalty, but it said such questioning is not required on constitutional grounds.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that prospective jurors may be excluded from jury service in capital cases if they indicate that they will automatically vote for or against the death penalty in every case.

In a decision dated Friday, the three-judge appeals panel from the 2nd Circuit upheld the convictions of Alan Quinones and Diego Rodriguez, rejecting defense arguments that their convictions should be reversed because the trial judge did not orally question jurors who indicated on questionnaires that they were opposed to the death penalty.

The men were convicted in 2004 of racketeering, drug trafficking and the 1999 murder of Eddie Santiago, an informant for the New York Police Department. During the penalty phase, jurors unanimously decided not to impose death.

The appeals panel noted that other trial judges in Manhattan have routinely questioned jurors who wrote in questionnaires that they oppose the death penalty.

"The practice is commendable," the panel said. "The bluntness or hesitancy, confidence or discomfort, displayed by prospective jurors as they respond to questions about the possibility of returning a capital verdict often reveals as much about bias as the actual answers given." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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