Jurors May Be Struck When Their Opposition to Death Penalty Precludes Them from Following the Law
No Constitutional Infirmity in Florida's Jury Selection Process Stating That Jurors May be Struck When Their Opposition to Death Penalty Precludes Them from Following the Law:
In San Martin v. State, 705 So. 2d 1337, 1343 (Fla. 1997), the court explained as follows:
We find no merit to this claim as "the Constitution does not prohibit the States from 'death qualifying' juries in capital cases." Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162, 173, 106 S. Ct. 1758, 1764, 90 L. Ed.2d 137 (1986).
Indeed, any group "defined solely in terms of shared attitudes that render members of the group unable to serve as jurors in a particular case may be excluded from jury service without contravening any of the basic objectives of the fair-cross-section requirement." Id. at 176-77, 106 S. Ct. at 1766-67.
As the Supreme Court further noted in Lockhart, not all individuals who oppose the death penalty are subject to removal for cause in capital cases; "only those who cannot and will not conscientiously obey the law with respect to one of the issues in a capital case." Id. at 176, 106 S. Ct. at 1766.
Moreover, the State may properly exercise its peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors who are opposed to the death penalty, but not subject to challenge for cause.
Under Florida law, a party's use of peremptory challenges is limited only by the rule that the challenges may not be used to exclude members of a "distinctive group."
State v. Neil, 457 So. 2d 481 (Fla. 1984) (holding that race-based peremptory challenges violate the defendant's right to an impartial jury);
State v. Alen, 616 So. 2d 452 (Fla. 1993) (same as to ethnicity);
Abshire v. State, 642 So. 2d 542 (Fla. 1994) (same as to gender).
Both parties have the right to peremptorily strike "persons thought to be inclined against their interests." Holland v. Illinois, 493 U.S. 474, 480, 110 S. Ct. 803, 807, 107 L. Ed.2d 905 (1990).
Thus, we find no constitutional infirmity in Florida's jury selection process in general. See Also Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162, 180, 106 S. Ct. 1758, 90 L. Ed. 2d 137 (1986) (stating that jurors may be struck for cause when their opposition to the death penalty would preclude them from impartially following the law).