Capital Punishment Issues in the U.S. Supreme Court
VII. Right to Impartial Jury/Fair Cross Section (6th Amendment)
Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412 (1985) [FindLaw] [Lexis]; Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968) [FindLaw], holding that prospective jurors whose views about the death penalty are so strong that they would “prevent or substantially impair the performance of his duties as a juror in accordance with his instructions and his oath” may be excluded for cause from jury service in a capital case. See also Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162 (1986) [FindLaw] [Lexis], holding that “death qualification,” or the exclusion for cause of anti-death-penalty prospective jurors under the Witt standard, does not violate either the impartial jury or fair cross-section requirements with respect to the guilt-innocence phase of a capital trial.
Uttecht v. Brown, 551 U.S. 1 (2007) [FindLaw] the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a trial judge has “broad discretion” in Witherspoon rulings where, as in this case, the record shows that “there is lengthy questioning of a prospective juror and the trial court has supervised a diligent and thoughtful voir dire.” The U.S. Supreme Court, however, contrasted the careful record in Uttecht with a situation “where the record discloses no basis for a finding of substantial impairment,” and similar deference would not be owed.
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