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NCJ Number: 98660 Find in a Library
Title: Witherspoon in Florida - Reflections on the Challenge for Cause of Jurors in Capital Cases in a State in Which the Judge Makes the Sentencing Decision
Journal: University of Miami Law Review  Volume:37  Issue:3, 4, 5  Dated:(May-September 1983)  Pages:825-866
Author(s): B J Winick
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 42
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In allowing the removal for cause of jurors so opposed to the death penalty they could not recommend it even though they could be fair and impartial in rendering a verdict, Florida undermines the essential role of the advisory jury in Florida's capital sentencing scheme; moreover, the practice is unconstitutional and without statutory basis.
Abstract: In Witherspoon v. Illinois, the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time imposed constitutional limits on the ability of States to exclude potential jurors from capital juries because of their opposition to the death penalty. The Supreme Court held that by permitting the removal for cause of jurors based merely on their scruples against capital punishment, Illinois had denied the defendant his due process right to an impartial jury on the issue of sentence. The Court has permitted States to exclude any juror whose beliefs would necessarily obstruct the State from achieving capital sentences under a constitutional capital punishment scheme. Although the judge makes the capital sentencing decision in Florida, the State still permits the exclusion of potential jurors who would recommend life imprisonment instead of capital punishment upon finding a defendant guilty in a capital case. In their advisory capacity with respect to sentencing, such jurors would not prevent the imposition of capital punishment, which is the function of the sentencing judge. The Florida practice interferes with the defendant's right to have an impartial jury to decide guilt. Moreover, the practice distorts the representative character of capital juries by eliminating a significant portion of members of the community who oppose capital punishment. A total of 165 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Florida; Jury selection challenges; Right to Due Process; State laws; US Supreme Court decisions
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