Is Individual Examination of Prospective Jurors Regarding Their Qualifications to Serve As Jurors In a Capital Case Permitted ?

In Lockhart v. McCree (476 US 162 [1986]), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of death qualifying a jury prior to trial and this court followed suit in the instant case (motion No. 21) and in People v. Harris (176 Misc 2d 967). However, while the Supreme Court in Lockhart expressed its reservations about the soundness of empirical studies which concluded that a conviction-prone jury is likely to be produced by death qualifying jurors, it elected not to reject such studies but rather articulated overriding compelling or significant state interests for allowing the death qualifying procedure (Lockhart, supra, at 180-181). Thus the debate over the predisposition of the death qualified jury to convict perseveres. CPL 270.16 permits individual examination of prospective jurors regarding their qualifications to serve as jurors in a capital case upon motion of either party. Nothing in that provision prohibits the integration of this absolute right to individualized voir dire with the court's discretionary power to allow individual questioning under CPL 270.15 (1) (c).