Supreme Court on death-qualified jurors
The Supreme Court today came down with Uttech v. Brown. The issue was ultimately whether a trial court properly removed a juror in a death-penalty case where there seemed to be some doubt about whether he could vote for the death penalty. (I say seemed to be some doubt because there was a lot of ambiguity: he said he supported the death penalty, and could impose it, esp. if a defendant might get outand but added that he'd just learned that if not sentenced to death the defendant would get life without parole, and that seemed to incline him against it.)
I can see the Court's emphasis that it must depend upon the trial court's assessment of the juror's demeanor. But I can't quite understand why death-qualified juries are still in use. The original rational was that the juror's objection to the death penalty would impermissibly contaminate their decision on guilt -- they'd be reluctant to convict, knowing that the judge might impose the death penalty. But today the jury votes on both issues, so there would be no likely contamination. In this context, holding that the State has a right, not only to jurors who can vote to convict, but who can impose the death penalty, means that a measurable part of the population is excluded from the jury. The result here also indicates that even a juror who supports the death penalty can be excluded, if his support is vague or has limits.